Last week was the first Young Marist Neighbours programme for 2017. Below is a reflection from one of the students.
The journey I undertook over the last week was not an easy one. It was confronting and challenging, but as Chaz, our Tuhoe elder guide, told us, “You can’t learn anything in your comfort zone. When you’re out of your comfort zone, that’s education.” Last week, I was definitely out of my comfort zone. I was challenged with new ideas and concepts pertaining to our world. I was challenged with experiences that I know will stay with me for the rest of my life. I was challenged to think bigger than myself and learn that “it’s not about I, me and my; it’s about we, us, and our.”
Young Marist Neighbours helped me to not only better understand the world in which I live, but also to better understand myself. During the last week, my pride in my own identity has been ignited, and I have finally found the passion to learn more about who I am, where I come from, and where I have grown up. The people and places I was exposed to also helped me broaden my perception of society, and gave me a desire to be more open and caring towards the people who may come into my life. Most importantly, Young Marist Neighbours illustrated to me the importance of relationships, and what communication and compassion can really mean to someone who is struggling, both mentally and physically, in life.
If this week has taught me anything more, it is that there are some things that you just can’t achieve on your own. Sometimes we need to accept help and support from others, even if we want to seem like the bigger person. Social justice is more than about what I can do; it’s about what we as one united front can do together. Sometimes, we need to realise that two hands are better than one, and that life is more than just us. We need to be able to trust people, and trust can only be built by relationships, and a relationship can only be built by deep respect, such as that shown to us by the people of Te Whaiti, Minginui and Ngaputahi. One of our leaders, in reflecting on the small group of adults who work to bring change in this community, compared the community to an old punching bag we saw hanging in the derelict shop that has been converted into a makeshift gym: “It gets hit left, right, and centre but it’s those small links in the chain that still keep it hanging.” In Minginui, I realised that despite all the hardships the people have faced, and still continue to face, there is still a community standing together, and growing. They are Tuhoe. They are whanau. They are one.
During this journey I faced challenge after challenge. Some I was able to face by myself, but most I found could only be met with the care and support of those around me. Their words and small actions truly encouraged me to gain the strength and courage to go out into the world, and really do something extraordinary with my life. I have always wanted to be someone who will leave an impact on our society, and Young Marist Neighbours has confirmed to me that I can be. The best part is, I don’t have to be some billionaire, or a child prodigy, because I have learned that it is the small things, like three meals a day, loving parents, and a roof over your head, that can make the biggest difference to someone who is living in dire conditions.
Last week, I was able truly understand what solidarity meant. I am not guilty for the wars fought in the Middle East. I am not guilty for the beggar on the side of the road. I am not guilty for a child not living in a stable home. However I am responsible. This is my world, or rather this is our world, and in this we all have a responsibility to care for those who live within it. Whether it be fundraising or just raising awareness for communities fighting injustice, both within and beyond our country, I believe that it is time to give back and help out our fellow neighbours in need.
Last week, I learned that a prophet is someone who speaks the truth, and challenges others to speak the truth.
I want to be a prophet. Do you?