Destruction & Hope

Christchurch, New Zealand

Arriving in Christchurch via train was uneventful.  Crusing the suburbs where televisions flash by in windows of suburban homes illuminating scenes of daily life – mothers holding children and watching the train, families sitting for dinner and other homes appearing oddly vacant aside from the glow from a flat screen on the wall. The houses seemed strong.  There was evidence of a community. This was not an area decimated by 2 large earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 I expected.

Normalcy abounded in the 20 minutes our train traversed the suburbs of Christchurch.

This surprised me because during our travels we had heard only of destruction.  Often described as sad or appalling by some of the Kiwi’s we met on our travels around the South Island.  The descriptions were also very matter of fact – the loss of life was sad and the destruction appalling – but earthquakes are a fact of life on the South Island, particularly in Christchurch.

They are just going to happen.

We departed the train thinking not of a city in ruin but a city that had appeared to have recovered and was already beginning anew.  It was not the tourist attraction of destruction we had expected. Our cab driver quickly put these thoughts of a peaceful, under affected and rebuilt Christchurch in their place however.

He described the earthquakes as the singular moment in his life that changed it for the worse.  No, he was not oozing positive energy…he was angry.  His city was destroyed he said.  He also said he lost his sister when the larger quake hit in 2011.  It is ok for this man to be angry.  He was a man that was affected by a fairly advanced case of cerebral palsy.  I only assume he has endured a life being cast as a retard or in categories where because of how he looks, speaks and walks, he is seen as a person who cannot perform.  That is a life many of us cannot relate to and one where it would be easy to be angry or to have many days which may be the worst in a life.  The earthquakes, these are what he claimed changed him more than anything.

Many hotels were full due to the amount of construction workers and engineers in the city.  We ended up booking in the Ibis hotel which was the first to open in what is know as the Red Zone – simply a no go area and the epicenter of the February 2011 quake.  Buildings in the Red Zone are condemned, awaiting inspection, in the process of repair or simply being demolished.  The area is fully cordoned off from the public with a 10 foot fence featuring warning signs of the danger and messages not to cross.

Its a tourist attraction.

The street on which our hotel sat was one where you could get close to the action of the cranes tearing what is left of buildings apart and watch men in yellow vests and survey equipment stroll though the chaos they are working to rebuild.  100’s of people everyday would walk down our street to take this picture, look solemnly at their walking companions and turn around to go back to a part of town where life looks a little bit normal.


We spent in two nights in this city and there were two earthquakes on our first day.  Both pretty low on the Richter scale but we did feel an odd little shake while browsing in a local bookstore.  I had never felt an earthquake and I can see where a strong one would get pretty scary.

Our human fascination with destruction – whether its observing in the aftermath or relishing in the computer generated replays of disasters which abound on the History or National Geographic channels – there is an odd pull towards destruction in our psyches.  Even the “little” destructions like those of a wealthy person “losing it all” or broken relationships with the gossip and rumors which ensue, some days it does seem we cannot get enough of watching, learning of and even experiencing destruction.

Perhaps it is because destruction begets change…and too often we fail to realize change is something we desire in our lives…

While we fill our curiosity with the innate negativity of destruction, it is not often that we take the time to understand the hope which can accompany a disastrous event.  There are a disproportionate number of examples that feature the act of destruction rather than hope of a brighter tomorrow.  Nor are there enough examples shown in mass media outlets of our ability to transform in the face of negativity or change.  Not once in our travels when speaking of Christchurch were the rebuilding projects mentioned or how they created a make shift mall out of shipping containers to bring life back to the cities Central Business District.  Not once were we told that the new hot street in town was Riccator Road now that the CBD is destroyed.  We heard about sadness and despair – not how businesses moved and continued to thrive or how people have created a new district with awesome shops and great cafes and its a perfect place to spend our money to help this city continue to grow.

Too often we lose sight of hope and our ability to transform when we face change.  Whether it is a large disaster which brings with it the opportunity to refresh and renew a great city or a personal destruction – the focus is on what is more interesting to see or facts from the past on which it is interesting to dwell. Our focus is often not on what is more interesting to envision.  Large disaster or smaller personal destructions give us the ideal opportunity to transform into a better, newer version of our cities or our self.  At the very least, change gives us the excuse to take a bit of time to think about what a better, newer or improved City, Family, Person or Attitude may do to vastly improve our future.

I have recently been inspired to transform myself.  I’m still just getting started but I’ve taken steps to lay a good foundation for future growth – I’ve prepared – and I am filled with positive hope that out of personal disaster – change – there is joy and there is hope.  I felt this same way in Christchurch.  There is destruction everywhere in the city but there is hope that it will be better than ever.  Sure, there is only one hotel open in the CBD and the mall made out of shipping containers is a little small – but they are there and they are packed.

There is joy on the faces of people who see progress and there is hope that the new Christchurch will be ready when this happens again, because it will.  I hope when it does, it is more uneventful and after the shake, life proceeds as it does when you are a train passenger simply glancing at lives quickly passing your window.

People will still want to marvel at the destruction but I hope they decide to focus on the hope found in the future, and move forward with the knowledge that change allows us the opportunity to create something beautiful.

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One Response to “Destruction & Hope”

  1. Mom
    September 28, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    Grant that was a beautiful post! You are doing so wonderful with adapting and seeing all of the good that comes with change. I am so proud of you! Your positive attitude helps me greatly to accept all of the changes and I thank you . You make me smile:). Love mom

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