The recent Christchurch tragedy has brought out the best in New Zealanders. Kiwis have responded defiantly to this horror with a determination to see this never happen again in our land.
It was also very humbling to witness the local Muslim response, filled with grace, forgiveness and love.
This raises some important questions as we move forward as a nation.
How do we want to live?
What is our identity as a nation?
What are the values we wish to uphold?
What kind of multi-cultural society do we want?
Is it possible to create a society where everyone feels loved and valued?
I won’t attempt to answer these big questions, but instead speak from my own personal experience.
Appreciating New Zealand
My life has certainly been enriched from travelling overseas and associating with people from different cultures.
I have had the privilege of travelling to many parts of the world including North and Central America, United Kingdom, Western Europe, Turkey, Morocco, Uganda, South Africa, China, India, Cambodia, Japan, Pacific Islands and Australia.
In the vast majority of those countries I was warmly received as a New Zealander. I felt honoured and respected, and there was a sense of favour in these relationships.
Visiting these countries has opened my eyes to different ways of life. It has also made me realise how fortunate I am to live in New Zealand.
Whenever I return to New Zealand the grass seems greener, the leaves more vibrant, the air cleaner, water purer, and there is a lot more space to enjoy our country’s natural beauty.
Experiencing other cultures
When my children turned 18 I decided to treat each one of them to an overseas trip for their birthday. This was a way for them to spend ‘one on one’ time with their Dad and learn from an experience in a foreign country.
When my eldest daughter turned 18, I told her that I had bought her something very, very special for her birthday.
She looked at me excitedly and asked if I had bought her a car.
No”, I responded, “I have bought you something much better. An overseas trip.”
‘That’s great,’ she said, ‘are we going to Europe?’
‘No, I am taking you to India for three weeks’ I replied.
Her face dropped, but over the next few months she became increasingly excited about the prospect of going.
During those three weeks in India we experienced many highs and lows. I know that this experience opened her eyes to a whole new way of life.
It made her appreciate how others live and to value what she has. She has gone on to forge a very successful career in the travel business.
Honouring each other
In our western society we honour people with presents on their birthday. The more you spend on someone, the more they may feel honoured.
A visit to Tonga seven years ago changed my perception of this.
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 and friends. Our western culture has much to learn from this.
Perhaps building a better society starts with us as individuals?
Firstly, let’s appreciate what we have and be thankful.
Secondly, let’s respect and honour each other as people.
We can respect and value each other simply as human beings, irrespective of our size, skin colour or age.
Thirdly, lets encourage and bring out the best in each other.
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