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The Kumara does not sing of its own sweetness

Saturday 15 July 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Editorials, Opinion


Driving my aunty around this morning to get forms filled out, and then to do some shopping, I asked her what it was like being a widow here in Rarotonga.

It’s lonely she said to me, and there is little help for us, I often feel on my own and find it difficult to ask for help let alone get help.

I wondered how many other Mamas and Papas, faced an uncertain day, let alone an uncertain and lonely future, unable to move freely, unable to have the help they need and unable to feel the love and support of family, something we pride ourselves on as Māori in the Cook Islands, but has our society changed and not for the good.

Another brother I saw in the supermarket, who is disabled now due to an accident, was making his way through the aisles, I could see the struggle on his face as we spoke, reaching out his only mobile hand, struggling as he walked up the aisles, foraging through what he could and could not afford for the meal ahead.

Having spent some time over the last few weeks down at the Creative Centre, I wondered then as I do now, how do we support those vulnerable and disabled in our communities, or has our society become so changed by outside influences, we no longer see them anymore.

A society is not judged by how it treats the wealthy, the privileged or those who live a life we could envy and wish for.

By the amount of super expensive trucks and four wheel drives on the island, the traffic in the mornings, the swimming pools and beach front or inland villas, there are those doing very well out of the economy and those that I met today, that are not.

And societies are always divided by the haves and the have nots, but here, in such a small community we live next door to them, they are sometimes members of our own families and in the end they are all our people, rich or poor, disabled or able, old or young.

If a society is as Mahatma Gandhi said - measured by how it treats its weakest members or as the young Apostle James said in his letter - Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world, then how do we measure up.

Religion that is acceptable to God, as we celebrate two hundred years of the Gospel of good news being in the Cook Islands is measured not by white Sundays, church attendance, or how beautiful our church buildings look and feel. Instead James commands us to look after the orphans and to take care of widows in their distress, and then to manage the affect this world can have upon our hearts.

And maybe it is in this order because the pollution of this world can creep slowly into our hearts when we don’t look after the orphans, those children that need our love care and support,  or look after the distress of those who have lost their support and loved one and are left to fend for themselves, and instead celebrate and look after the privileged, the wealthy, and those with status and prestige.

'Kāore te kumara e kōrero mō tōna ake reka compels us to not sing our own praises but to let others do it if at all. So often I hear and have said, we as a country punch well above our weight or comments like that. I wonder if widows in the backroad, sleeping on a mattress with noodles for dinner and no running water, or children left to fend for themselves, or the disabled say just how well we re punching. And as we celebrate 200 years of the Gospel arriving to the Cook Islands my question is simply this. When it is the good news for all is it then something we can celebrate, or for just the few, because true religion as James pointed out includes us all, with no one left behind.