It started with just myself, sitting patiently in the waiting room as one after the other, older Polynesian men took their seat, we looked at each other acknowledging why we were there and acknowledging the potential trouble we were in.
Most of us would already have had the talk about changing our lifestyles but by the looks of that room, and myself, not much had changed.
The cardiologist will give us all that long stare and say once again you need to change your life. You need to find the courage for change, because your life depends on it.
There were seven of us in the end sitting there, waiting to meet our fate at the hands of our cardiologists, and it occurred to me in that quiet sober moment, that seven was also the number of young lives lost in Rarotonga to road deaths by the time we reached Christmas.
Seven lives. Unlike those of us sitting in that room who had lived at least two thirds of our lives, had children, jobs, and needed the courage to ensure this last third would be long and prosperous, that it would flourish, that we would see our children and grandchildren grow and mature and that we would grow old gracefully as best as our health and courageous chalices would allow.
Sadly, in life when we lack courage, someone, somewhere suffers because of it. When we lack courage, we do not do what needs to be done and instead hesitate, as we would rather consider what fear and a lack of courage would have us do, rather than what courage compels us to do in its place.
Greatness has been defined by courage and all that we consider great in humanity has been because of courage.
Martin Luther King stood for courage in the face of racial hatred and bias.
Jesus stood in courage in the face of religious and Roman rule, choosing rather the courage to do his father’s bidding then fall to his human desire to live.
Abraham Lincoln stood in the face of slavery supporters and said not all men are treated as equal and slavery must be faced head on with the courage and conviction of change.
Because courage compels us to not just window dress change, but instead to follow it through to its sometimes painful end – because courage, like fear, comes at a price.
When Rosa Parks sat on the bus in Montgomery Alabama where only whites could sit, the end result was marches in the street and eventual change, but not before blood and lives had been taken in the process. Abraham Lincoln understood that his stand could cost him his political career, as would Nelson Mandela years later.
If we think courage comes easy then we have never really encountered courage or the uncomfortable place it leads us to where change can truly happen.
Because change is for a moment or a season, painful, uncomfortable and difficult, but when we consider what the world would be like without courage, without men and woman that stood for courage, then we are left considering a world full of more pain and more suffering, more inequality and more lives and potential taken unnecessarily.
Our leaders today are faced with the need for courage, to make decisions to protect our mapu, to put laws and restrictions in place to keep them safer, despite at times their reckless decisions and impulsive desires, that we all succumbed to in some way when we were their age, and some still do.
They are now faced with the sad and tragic dilemma of this now being personal with the latest loss on our roads, and can I express my deepest condolences to my good friend Mona and Grace and their family during this terrible time for you all.
May God give you the strength and courage to walk this path before you all, not alone but with his love and ours to support you on the way.
We are all responsible as a community, to pray for, compel, cajole, and speak with our leaders in our families, our villages, our churches and government to have the courage for change, and especially in the face of this travesty where too many lives have been lost so unnecessarily.
I am hopeful by the fact that our leaders found the courage to insist in law, that our manuiri, our tourists and their families, must wear helmets at all times, and I pray that they find again that same courage to protect our sons, daughters, and families also.
Now once again is the time for courage. A time for change because lives lived long and flourished are depending on it. The words of Henry Puna resonate with us all: “enough is enough”.
Te Atua Te Aroa.