The mid-July mists hang in the trees of the forest that surrounds Kaingaroa. The village, too, is gray, and might be deserted but for the odd dog that barks as we pass, or the wisps of smoke coming from random chimneys. From every broken down house, the long-abandoned swimming club pool, the smashed-up Working Men’s Club, the words of Prime Minister Lange in 1984 still permeate this place: “…and I can personally guarantee the people of Kaingaroa that not a single forestry worker will lose his job.”
Hope is often expressed as “a passion for the possible.” Here it quite often catches us unawares --- in the students at the school, in the undying optimism of the Principal, in the dozen or so Baptisms this year in the village Church. Today, though, it’s Marama. She’s a young woman, vibrant and bright-eyed as she beckons us over to her cake stall, set up outside the village’s only store. There are about fifteen cakes, all carefully wrapped --- banana cakes, chocolate, carrot, one large cream-filled sponge, assorted others. Five dollars each, and seven-fifty for the sponge. We pick some out, including the sponge, because two of the students on this Neighbours group have birthdays today.
“So,” I say, getting my change, “What are we raising for money for today?” It’s a casual, unthinking question really, just making conversation. Marama’s face lights up: “It’s my twenty-first in September, and I’d like to have a party.” She looks at the unsold cakes. “If I can sell all these I might try and do another cake stall in a few weeks.”
If Marama sells all these, and runs another, similar, cake stall in a few weeks, she’ll raise about a hundred and fifty dollars, minus the expenses of making the cakes.
Our students reflect together a little later on, and they all express how much they want to do to change the situation in the village. They can raise money for this and that, they can motivates their colleagues back at school to help. It’s noble of them, idealistic, touching, but of course they can’t change the village. They can change themselves, though, and they gently begin to realize that that will take a longer and more sustained and courageous effort than anything that they might do for the village.