4 Years of Words

We’ll, it’s that time of year again, when anyone with a Google news alert for “Haiti” starts receiving a flood of articles about “4 Years Later…” Sunday will mark the 4 year anniversary of the earthquake that has defined this country’s identity from the moment that it struck. And that means that all sorts of journalists and humanitarians will be throwing around their analyses of what has happened since. The progress that has been made and problems that have been born and lived will all be evaluated and discussed in an effort to show the world how disaster relief should, or more commonly, should not be done. It has happened for the last 3 years and will probably continue to happen every year until some other natural disaster comes along and wipes more than 300,000 people off this planet. Because that’s how we qualify a disaster, by how many people it kills.

And every time that this happens I feel like I’m back in grade school when the teacher would bring the naughty kid to the front of the classroom to make an example of him. “Okay kids, now did everyone see what Danny did there? Now we don’t want to be like Danny, do we, class?” And the entire class shakes their heads in fear while Danny hangs his head in shame. Then the teacher sends Danny back to his desk, now very aware of what he did but still very unaware of how to do differently in the future. Danny sits at his desk doubting himself and his potential to do good. And a week later when some other kid misbehaves they might get reprimanded but they can always say, “at least I’m not as bad as Danny.”

And so here sits Haiti just waiting to be made an example of once again by the loads of onlookers and researchers with the pure motives of wanting to do better next time. There will even be those who were personally touched or even present for the event that will take the opportunity to try to say something meaningful just because they know more people will be paying attention at this time. I know I, for one, will be posting something on Sunday. It’s like posting what you’re thankful for on Facebook for Thanksgiving; it just has to be done, as cliche as it may seem.


Sure there’s still rubble in my front yard after 4 years, but behind and within there is growth and life that is what defines the present.

However, what I’m feeling at this moment leading up to Sunday is much like what I wrote in my book, The Grinder, that there have been enough words spouted at this situation already. And there will probably continue to be words spouted at it every year for the rest of our lives until the last survivor’s memory fades or Haiti surpasses all other countries in terms of development. Whichever comes first. For some people it’s their job to spout those words and we have an obligation to continue searching for ones that express ideas that are new somehow but eventually we have to honestly look at what those words are accomplishing.

On the day of the quake I was told that words broke my house and ever since then I’ve tried to be more conscious of what my own words are doing. Are they breaking or are they building? Are they enriching or are they depleting? Are they enlightening or are they adding confusion? Are they even necessary in the first place or are they just adding to the noise that surrounds us?

Unfortunately as I start to see these different articles pop up, although there’s truth in the reporting and sincerity in the stories, I struggle to find words that are capable of building, which is what this country needs now. Building up in its faith in itself. Building up in the resources it needs to move forward on its own. Building up in the strength to not be affected by what all of the outsiders say or write.

This post in itself is not those words but a call to other writers more talented than me to search for those words as we write our “4 Years Later” articles. It’s also a reminder to readers to look for the all of the real life being lived beyond all of the analyses of “what went wrong” “where’d all the money go” and “there are still tent cities”. Danny already knows he’s a failure and rest assured he’ll continue to make mistakes as he grows but let’s help him find a reason to believe that that’s not all that defines him. Let’s give his classmates a reason to forget about his screw ups too and have a reason to want to be his friend and walk alongside him through the good and the bad. Let’s make it a new day for Danny!

One comment

  1. Agreed, let us all think more about the words we say & use our words to Build up not tear down. So much potential and possibility. The Good News? It’s already happening because of catalysts like you & Haitians who also seek out, Listen, Respect and Honor the culture & the many talents they possess. Looking forward to reading your words on Sunday. And to arriving in Haiti soon to highlight the words, talents and projects of Haitians who are working so hard to rebuild.

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