When you look at it, it’s so crazy. I can’t even fathom it.
In my lifetime I’ve seen all these world tragedies, from the tsunami to Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans flooding and now to this, the earthquake in Haiti. It’s humbling. It really is.
The thing about it is you have no control over it. No one does. Not you or me, or the people in Haiti. An earthquake. A hurricane. A tsunami. When tragedy hits and it hits people who are already in bad positions, it’s just random.
It’s just life. Growing up one of my best friends -- I hung out with him every day -- was murdered. And you always want to say “Why?” “Why did it have to be him?” It’s so random. But they all go to a special place. I believe in God and I believe in heaven and they all go to a special place.
As far as the earthquake, I know people who are directly affected by it. I know people in the league like Samuel Dalembert, he’s from Haiti. My heart goes out to him and his family. It’s tragic. It’s unfortunate. I know he gave $100,000 to help with the relief effort for the families there, and I plan on giving out a donation, too.
In a way, I can relate. I’ve got extended family in New Orleans on my mom’s side – like aunties and cousins -- and I had a chance to help them out with their move to Houston. It was about 10 or 15 family members and I helped them get a place to live, some food, and some transportation.
Picture this: one day you leave your house. Say you go to school or you go to work and you get off work and you go back and everything’s completely gone. You can’t get any possessions. You can’t get any food. You can't get anything. Can you imagine that? That’s a difficult situation. That’s the situation they were in. They had to get up and go. Everything was destroyed.
We as NBA players, we're blessed to be in our situation and a lot of us help. When tragedies like this happen, you have so many players get behind these types of tragedies and donate their time and donate their money, I don’t think things of that nature are really put to the forefront at all times.
I know everybody talks about the Gilbert Arenas incident, and don’t get me wrong I talk about it too. I think it’s a shame. The ownership, the management, they’re not behind him. They’re trying to void his contract. They’re not supporting him after all he’s done for the organization. They know what type of guy he is. They know he’s never had a bad rap or a bad reputation. He just made a mistake. I don’t really see like a support system around there for him. It’s a messed up situation.
But it’s bigger than that.
Guns aren’t things that you’re supposed to play around with. You look around and you see how many kids and how many adults die from gun violence every day. That’s not something to play around with. He’s going to learn from it. He’s seeing the repercussions from it. He’s suspended. He could go to jail. His whole life could change.
It’s not a joke. People don’t joke like that. You hear stories about guns just going off on people. Look at what happened to Plaxico Burress. Nothing good comes from showing off guns.
Tragedies happen to even the most innocent. You don’t have to be a thug, you don’t have to be a criminal, you don’t have to be a bad guy. Stray bullets hit kids all the time. You see kids playing with guns, and by accident, they shoot their father or the mother or their sister or their brother. Or themselves. And you never think it could happen.
But if a tragedy does happen to you and you live to talk about it, your life changes. I hope it changes you. I hope so.
For me, everything changed. My life changed.
After I was stabbed, I was in the hospital laying there, I had a whole different outlook on life. I had to be more careful about who I hung around with, about the places I went. I thought about my family. My friends. I value them a lot more because it’s like at any moment, it could have been over for me.
I was 22-years old and I hadn’t even accomplished many of the things I wanted to accomplish in life. With a blink of an eye, my life could have ended.
I was just thankful that I was able to live through it. You see how people get stabbed or shot one time and die from it. I was stabbed NINE TIMES and was able to talk about it.
It changes you. You’re aware of your surroundings and everything. You grow up so much faster when you go through something tragic. It definitely changes you as a person. You look at life differently.
You never think something tragic can happen to you. You always see it and you think it could never happen to you. You think that’s stuff that happened on the news or happened on the movies, but it could never happen to you. But that’s life.
It was traumatizing for me for a while. I woke up in cold sweats. I had nightmares about it. Some people, it takes a while to get over. Some people move on.
It took me a couple years. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I didn’t want to talk to people too much. I tried to isolate myself. It was like I was scared to go places. Especially in Boston. I used to have security at my house 24 hours a day. It was traumatizing for me. I used to jump in my sleep, wake up in the middle of the night. It was a lot of that. Just picturing the whole moment. Having nightmares about it. There was a lot of that.
I had to grow and learn.
After my experience, I was really appreciative of the care I received at Tufts Medical Center. Because I had minimally invasive surgery, I was able to get back on the court a month later, so I worked with them and we opened the Paul Pierce Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery and I sit on the hospital's Board of Governors."
You wish you didn’t have to learn that way. But it could happen to anybody. You say to yourself, "I wish I was a little more cautious." But you don’t know. Who knows? Who knows when an earthquake is going to hit? Who knows when a tsunami’s going to hit? Who knows when something tragic might happen? Who knows?
All you can do is learn from it and do whatever you can. In Haiti's case, please offer as much help as possible.
As told to Globe reporter Julian Benbow.
Paul Pierce's FitClub34 by Harvard Pilgrim is a Truth Fund program providing children with the information, resources, and tools necessary to become more active and physically fit. To learn more, visit www.truthonhealth.org