i am just home from the most wonderful day and I’m still just processing it all, but I wanted you all to know about the amazing people I spent today with.
It’s no secret that I spend a very little time at Te Puea Marae. Sometimes they tell me what’s really needed that’s a bit unusual – stuff that nobody would think to donate like rubbish bags, that sort of thing. And so, what’s happened, is I’ve started to build up relationships with some of the people down there who are all, it should be said, volunteers, and who are using their Marae as the front door to social services for people who otherwise wouldn’t access those services or have difficulty getting a foot in the door. Homeless people. Living in cars. Most are families, some small, some large.
The people who work regularly at the Marae are themselves beautiful people, and so when I suggested I take all the whānau on the trip, they were more than willing to allow that to happen. I had never met any of the whānau living at the Marae. Because of this, I’d also asked Marae staff if they would come, at least 2 or 3 of them so that the whānau wouldn’t feel too shy, and at least have familiar faces along for the ride.
So this morning, I went along a little early so I could meet everyone, talk to them a bit beforehand about what was going on, and together we waited for the bus to arrive. I finally met a few people from the Marae I hadn’t yet met – Huri, the backbone of the whole thing, a gentle and lovely man, gracious and kind. Moko, who I had talked to for quite a while via social media, and who I would consider somewhat of a sister. The mood was upbeat, though the older kids were putting on a bit of a front. But I saw them, the way they cared for the younger children, how solicitous and gracious they were. We seemed to be waiting a long time, so I rang the bus driver, and I mention this only because he was to become a very important part of the day. Finally, the bus arrived, we all got on, found our seats and I got talking to Nanny L, a retired social worker who volunteers at the Marae 3 days a week. A woman who knows her stuff. We had a really great chat about her career, about working with kids, and about how using kaupapa Māori had been a really important and effective part of her practice. I sat with a little tiny girl who had the sweetest smile and loved being able to see everything out the window.
We went to Kelly Tarltons, and the staff there were so kind and lovely. And we changed the timetable – I went to see Barry our bus driver who was waiting for us the entire time and asked if we could go to a park and eat lunch. He was incredibly flexible, and accommodating with everything I asked of him. Lovely man.
Lunch was had, a veritable feast put together by the Marae staff and parents the night before. I got talking to a few of the parents, we watched the kids play touch, it was all so lovely. We went to Mission Bay. We ate icecream, and we got on the bus and Barry took the long way home so that the kids could see a bit more of this big city.
And then, home.
I am left with this. I have never, in twenty years of teaching and knowing thousands of parents, ever seen such gentle, mindful and peaceful parenting. Such love and grace. I was stunned by it. They have, all of them, lived in dire circumstances for prolonged periods of time – I had thought they would be stressing, and factious. But all I felt from them was the most extraordinary peacefulness. Calm. Unharried. Some of the kids were arguing as kids do. There was only hugs and love, and reminders to be careful of one another’s feelings. I’m sure there must be times of distress and where that grace is tested, but I never saw it all day. What extraordinary people, and what a privilege to spend time with them. As I said to them, I show you some light, you show me some light, we all benefit.
And we did.
I won’t forget today or these people for a very long time, and I’m determined that we do this again. Spend time with each other, just being. What a pleasure.
Thank you all for the chance to do this – Gloria, Alec, Kelly Tarltons, James, The Aunties, the whānau of Te Puea Marae, Huri, Johnboi, Moko, Martha, Whitiao, Lorna, Jenny, Mata, Tom, Mona. All of you.
We built something today.