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Never Say Never

In hopes of raising awareness about the reality of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, Sam writes every Monday about a key issue in an attempt to stop the atrocity. Doing so may not bring about a wave of change, but it is a small ripple that represents the tide that needs turning.

Words have an uncanny ability to be all-powerful and meaningless all at once. In an instant, an insult can scar a heart for years, or a joke with the ‘N’ word can draw roaring laughter. Writers like me are faced with the reality that our words can have no effect whatsoever, or they can change lives more than we ever intended.

I’ve been to a few meetings of a local group in Nashville who has formed a coalition to help bring an end to the genocide in Darfur. When I went to their first public awareness rally, there was momentum around the phrase, “Never Again.” Knowing the realities of the Holocaust, Bosnia, and Rwanda inspires many to do what they can so that Darfur is not added to that tragically growing list.

Last week, Nicolas Kristof, a columnist for the New York Times who is trying to bring this tragedy to the forefront of American minds, wrote a column entitled “Never Again, Again?” While he acknowledges that a solution to end the genocide is complicated, he does not believe it is impossible. But above all, he shows us that uttering the phrase “Never Again” is blasphemy if not accompanied by resolute action.

Idle phrases are not new. Christians for years have said, “I’ll pray for you,” when a friend tells them bad news, and then they go on their way, forgetting about the promise they made. Politicians use empty words like Americans use gasoline, not worrying about the consequences of broken promises. And especially at Christmas, we all speak of the love, hope and peace made manifest in Bethlehem long ago, but we do little to see its manifestation in 2005. Maybe we’re better off keeping our mouths shut.

So what do we do with words? Are we better off never saying “Never Again” if we do nothing to make sure “Never Again” never needs to be said again? (Man, words can be confusing!) As a writer, words are my friend and my tool, enabling me to express what needs expressing. However, words are always limited. We learned when we were young that actions speak louder than words. Our mothers didn’t tell us this because it was trite, but because it was true. Actions express through humble humanity what our lofty words cannot. Actions take all that we are: our time, our fears, our energy, our lives and produce what our mouths cannot: consistency. My advice? Read Kristof, visit www.savedarfur.org, and never say never, unless your life is doing the talking.

“Never Say Never”