Thomas Tarurongo Wynne: Mana aroa - It’s who we are

Saturday May 09, 2020 Written by Published in Editorials
Early on a cold autumn morning at Auckland International Airport, Thomas Wynne, Selina Patia Vainerere and Ma Nicholas farewell the 130 Cook Islanders returning home to Rarotonga. 20050810 Early on a cold autumn morning at Auckland International Airport, Thomas Wynne, Selina Patia Vainerere and Ma Nicholas farewell the 130 Cook Islanders returning home to Rarotonga. 20050810

OPINION: Sitting down to the large Sal’s Pizza was a treat worth waiting for after five weeks of lockdown in Auckland. And as we sat at the table, preparing to give thanks, little hands reached across to the now steaming hot cheesy pizza ...

 

My eyes, like those of my mother and grandmother, peered over to my small nephew and said, I don’t think so.

I think Cook Islanders have a special ability to speak with their eyes, without saying a word – a look from my mother could cut us in half, and warm our hearts to their fullest, all at the same time.

As my nephew replaced the pizza in the box, he closed his eyes, clasped his hands and – as we did as children, as my parents also did as children, and as was done by my grandparents, he gave thanks.

A simple short prayer of thanksgiving, that reminded us all before we ate to be thankful for whatever it was in front of us, be it a kaikai fit for a king, or a Sal’s Pizza piping hot and ready to be devoured.

Sometimes in life we are reminded to be go higher. And in fact the scriptures compel us to remember our creator when we are young, to honour our parents, to love those that hate us and to be kind, to show kindness and when given the opportunity.

It was Michelle Obama, First Lady of the USA, who famously said, when they go low we go high. Michelle was asked about this comment in the New York Times this week.

Going high doesn’t mean you don’t feel the hurt, or you’re not entitled to an emotion,” she explained.

“It means that your response has to reflect the solution. It shouldn’t come from a place of anger or vengefulness. Barack and I had to figure that out. Anger may feel good in the moment, but it’s not going to move the ball forward.”

“For me,” she continued, “when you are a public figure in power, everything you do models what you want the country to do.”

And here in lies the challenge and our country has responded to this with kindness beyond measure. The way our people have embraced those coming home from their quarantine is such a wonderful example of when given the chance, when given the opportunity to go higher, we as Cook Islanders go high.

That when we have a moment, like my nephew reaching out for his pizza when he knew he should have given thanks first, the response is one of yes we can do better, yes we will because this actually is who we are.

It warms my heart and brings tears to my eyes as I watched the bus empty this morning at the airport with our people, bags in hand singing and making their way home, knowing that aroa and kindness would meet them on the other side of the reef.

To see the many beautiful welcome home images from our people, from the airport staff and personnel to those lining the streets, the Mana Aro’a team in Rarotonga and all our Iti tangata that were there just to say we love you and welcome, shows that we will never be defined by the poor actions and words of a few.

We will instead be defined by the love and aroa of the many, because this is who we are, because when they go low – we go higher than ever before.

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