Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Proverbs from Haiti: Hope Makes One Live

Edwidge Danticat
We dedicate this page to Haitian author, Edwidge Danticat, through whose stories we can hear the voices of the members of our Haitian family.

With these proverbs, we seek honor the courage and resilience of the Haitian people. We look forward to seeing their dignity restored after the devastating January earthquake.

Hope makes one live

You know what you've got, but you don't know what's coming.

God says do your part and I'll do mine.

If it is God who sends you, he'll pay your expenses.

Misfortune has no horn.

Where there is hunger, goats do not die tied to their ropes.

The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.

If work were a good thing the rich would have grabbed it a long time ago.

The donkey sweats so the horse can be decorated with lace.

If you want to catch a wild horse, find a tight corral.

What happens to the turkey can happen to the rooster too.

A little dog is really brave in front of his master’s house.

The giver of the blow forgets, the bearer of the scar remembers.

Salt doesn’t boast that it is salted.

People talk and don't act.

God acts and doesn't talk.

Every human being is a human being.

Only the knife knows what is at the heart of the yam.

Just because someone is smiling at you does not mean they're your friend.

Roaches are never right when facing chickens.

The constitution is paper, bayonets are steel.

After the dance the drum is heavy.

Beyond the mountain is another mountain.

A stumble is not a fall.

Hope makes one live.

For more proverbs from Haiti, the African continent, and other countries in the African Diaspora, please see Lifelines: The African Book of Proverbs.  

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When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at