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Embracing our flavours

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Reflection: The city of Wellington is blessed with a variety of restaurants that add to the flavour of the city. Indian, Thai, Moroccan, Cambodian, Mongolian, Greek, Malaysian, Italian, Mexican, Vietnamese, Irish, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Japanese and French. Take your pick.

Wellington is a much richer place due to the diversity of restaurants and cultures that reside there.

In the same way, the All Blacks are a much better team due to the different skillsets and talent Māori and Pacific Islanders bring to the team. The All Blacks would not be so good if they were all white.

Different cultures add colour and flavour but they also create challenges and can take us outside our comfort zone.

Similarly, the families we belong to have different flavours and colours which create challenges.

Each family member has a unique personality, skin colour, varying moods, ways of dressing and points of view. This can mean we get on better with some members of the family more than others.

Keeping family close requires a commitment of time, an ability to listen, empathy and sometimes forgiveness and grace. The reward comes from an investment in your family and learning from each other.

Learning from other cultures

 Over the past two years I have had the honour of attending two hui. These were quite emotional events where there was a deep reconciliation between Pakeha and Māori.

I will never forget the love and forgiveness displayed by my Māori colleagues. I began to appreciate Māori culture in a new light, the importance they place on people and environmental sustainability.

Also, a visit to Tonga eight years ago changed my perception of honour and respect for people. It was my friend’s birthday and it was being held at his father’s home in Nukuʻalofa.

Around 30 people were present and there was an abundance of food. Before we sat down to eat, we all gathered in the main living room, on the floor, and my friend thanked us for coming to his birthday.

He then went around the room and spoke to each one of us to tell us what we meant to him. There were tears as he shared his thoughts with us and we were all truly honoured and made to feel special.

After he had finished speaking, we all got a chance to share back with him. There was humour and there were more tears and we all bonded as one big family.

This demonstrated to me how Tongan people respect their family andfriends and why their families remain close.

The challenge

Amongst all cultures and families there is good and bad. There are good things and good people and bad things and bad people.

As we navigate through the challenges of multiculturalism I believe there is hope. And it does not need to involve a compromise on our values.

In cooking there is a term ‘fusion’, where you take the best ingredients from different regions and combine them.

Fusion food has become popular because it offers culinary adventures based on unique and distinctive tastes, bringing more colour to culinary culture.

Perhaps we can take a lesson from fusion cooking?

To embrace our good flavours, resolve differences and bring out the best in each other.

What can we do?

We can join the throng and participate in social media outbursts and street protests to bring about change.  These are very visible ways to make a point.

I believe however that this is not enough. We need to demonstrate love at the coalface. To demonstrate love and value for every person.

It could be a small act of kindness.

A number of years ago I moved to a neighbourhood where a large Chinese family lived next door. For the first year I had little to do with them.

One day I did a small act of kindness for them. This brought a smile to their faces and opened a door. Suddenly I was treated to exceptional hospitality and would be given food or invited over for large family gatherings.

Fear gave way to love.

It could be an encouraging word.

I love meeting new people from all countries and all walks of life. One of the questions I love to ask a person is “What are you passionate about?” This is followed up with an encouraging word.

Small acts of kindness, a listening ear and an encouraging word breaks down barriers and builds people up.

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