Raro music would fill our house in the weekends as a boy, as family gathered to kaikai and sing songs from home.
Drinks would flow and Mum’s favourite, her gin and tonic, would be finished with lemons from her back yard.
And when I mean backyard, I mean a whole quarter-acre of trees, fruit trees and vegetables, with the lemon tree in the far corner, right next to Papa Ngereteina and Mama Jackie’s fence line.
Tommy, can you go get some more lemons please? The call would come, and I would summon all my strength to face the fear of running in the dark to that far back corner and grabbing the ripe lemons for the table or merriment inside.
I don’t know why I was so afraid of the dark, but I remember running as fast a I could, grabbing the softest lemon and running back to our back door steps and into the warm, noisy song-filled kitchen – nope, it’s not ripe yet, go get another – as I held my breath for another run in the dark.
Fear makes no sense, and it made no sense then as a boy running through a yard I knew so well during the day but changed to pitch darkness at night.
Fear is an unrealistic thought that grips our hearts and plays out the most unimaginable scenarios in our mind, though the reality is too often so far from the fear we imagined.
Fear causes us to be cautious when maybe we don’t need to be so much and to at times make decisions that in the end harm us more then the fear we imagined. Fear is creative and fear is fuelled by misinformation and not the truth.
As a virus grips our planet, countries and communities, fear can take a hold of us and cause us to imagine scenarios that are just not real or true. Fear can be fuelled also by misinformation and we need to keep guard of our eye, ear, and mouth gates in times like these.
And as we do all that we can to protect our borders, fear can cause us to make decisions about each other and about others that can in the end cause more harm then what ever we feared could possibly happen.
Much like the lemon tree in the corner of our back yard, which seemed enormous when I was a child. When darkness came that same backyard, that my brother and I played in until the sun set, took on a whole new meaning in the dark.
It is assuring that our leaders announce the protection of our borders and the thought that the wellbeing of our country comes before its ability to create revenue.
This may be of little comfort to those whose livelihood is dependent on visitors crossing those borders and spending their money here in the Cook Islands.
But it is reasonable to be anxious about the fragility of our economy when a pandemic like the croronavirus sweeps from one nation to the next.
However, for the first time in a long time, we come face to face with the fragility of being so dependent on one stream of income for our country’s economic survival.
The fear of what that worst case scenario could mean for us all is reasonable as our Health leaders and government leaders are tasked with the balance of protecting our people from an epidemic, and protecting our economy and the livelihood so many of us are dependent upon.
And yet it is moments like these where our values, what we consider most important, and what we build our lives upon that is tested and tried.
In the comfort of our own homes, the decision to ban a ship coming in was met with many that said, yes, keep it out, and as many that said, no, our livelihood depends on it.
And with the closure of borders to certain countries, and this list growing, and New Zealand now facing four confirmed cases, our leaders are left with some very dificult decisions.
And yet to lead, as we know, is to make the right decision and not always the popular one.
We cannot allow fear to grip our hearts or our conversations, though as I realised as a boy running out to the back yard in the dark for my mum’s lemons, I actually had little to be fearful for, and in time I knew that to be true.
Fearful situations test us, they test our faith, they test our beliefs, our relationships and they test our character.
Fear will bring it to the surface where comfort and convenience will not, so yes, we should check ourselves and our attitudes, our conversations and thoughts about others in a time as critical as the one we face, as a planet and as a country, and check our rock that we build our lives on.
I know and trust the one my life is built on – how’s yours doing?