When potholes in our roads are written about time and time again – far more often than about the “potholes” in our families and stray children, who wander aimlessly without parental love or guidance, we have a problem.
The police highlighted the issue this week, highlighting the problem of youth offenders. And yes, there is a growing problem, but do we address this by putting our hands on our hips and shaking a finger at youth? Or should we take a long, hard look at ourselves and ask what it is that we have done to get us into this situation we are in - and what we are going to do about it?
It’s like the planter who plants a seed, never waters it or provides nourishment and shelter. When the tree grows small and withered, because it has not had the necessary love and care that it needs, he gets mad at the tree and for being so withered and unable to produce fruit.
How often do we point our finger at the tree that bears no fruit, or at the aimless youth, without considering the absent fathers, the drunken parents, the grandparents who are now too old and frail to manage grandchildren, the mother working two jobs just so as her children can eat noodles, or the abuse measured out too often by those that were supposed to care. We wonder why our young ones fall so hard through the cracks, breaking into pieces when they hit the firm, hard ground of broken promises, broken dreams, broken families and broken aspirations.
Yes, we need to consider what’s happening to our youth and our society, but let that consideration start with ourselves. Let us look into our own mirrors before we look over the neighbour’s fence and pass judgement, because the change we so desperately demand on social media and in face-to-face discussions has always been in our own hands.
Change will not come as long as we berate or criticise the effect and not the cause of this dilemma or as long as we focus on kneejerk demands like strengthening the police and not strengthening our families, our parents or our communities first.
Have we been distracted by other things while those things that really matter have been left behind, allowing our virtues, our values and what we stand for to be sold to the highest bidder? Integrity is left at the door as we allow the locusts to destroy the harvest, our next generation.
We are the generation that started off using paper bags to carry our goods home from the shop, then went to plastic for convenience. Now we must reconsider that decision to opt for greater convenience because of the negative effect it is having on the environment.
We are the generation that said yes to smoking and declared that it wasn’t as bad for you as some said. That was until the evidence as to how harmful it really was became so overwhelming and again we had to reconsider our position and make change. And we are the generation that also said our spiritual lives do not matter as much anymore, letting the churches slowly empty because we thought we could do it our own way.
So can we make the change needed to bring our society back on track? Much like we have done with our attitude towards smoking and with plastic bags, can we show the same care for our families, for our sons and daughters as we do for our environment and our fish and do something like march through the streets because people matter too - because our young ones, our families and our futures matter as much as our tuna?
Next week we will be launching the Blue Edge program, and I believe that together, we can and will make a difference. Starting in Puaikura, this programme will capture a handful of young lives and pour life skills, values, exercise and breakfast into the answer because talking about the problem has never got us anywhere.
I believe wholeheartedly in the strength and resilience of our communities and of the love we have for each other. If we demonstrate this with God’s guidance, we can and will change lives for good. One son and daughter, one child, one family, one parent, one extended family and one community and a Vaka at a time.
And like ka’a, the taura or rope that bound our vaka and our houses together so strongly, that they weathered storms and seas, we have always been stronger when we have woven our lives into each other and worked together to bring the change we needed.
E te taura e toru enui ra, kare ia e motu vave.