Manaakitanga: Sharing our common life

We have been highlighting the quality of Manaakitanga over the past few weeks.  This value, held in high esteem by our Tangata Whenua strongly correlates with the practices of our gospel message; the process of showing respect, generosity and care for others.  The writer of Acts records that as a demonstration of faith ‘The whole congregation of believers were united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn't even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That's mine; you can't have it.” They shared everything.’ (Acts 4).

This passage is often held up as the utopian example of community life.  A litmus test to measure ourselves against only to feel like it’s just beyond our grasp.  We, however, don’t need to look too far to see this practice naturally outworked within our own family dynamics.  Cath and I both grew up in families which reinforced a culture that moulded the belief that we’re connected and part of something larger than ourselves. This shared life together outworked the concept of Manaakitanga in so many natural ways. 

Our homes were shared spaces that were accommodating, not just to those in the family, around rituals of shared meals, shared bedrooms, shared belongings but also open to others needing lives to knit in to. Our family dining table became such a prominent space where hospitality, kindness and care was practiced that when my father passed away we couldn’t bring ourselves to part with it.  The table became a sacred icon that still remains within the family.  

Brene Brown talks about holding hands with strangers as a concept of doing life with others, partaking in communal things and public experiences.  The reality is that we share life on a daily basis in very natural ways.  We share the air we breathe, the commute to work, particularly if we are using public transport.  There is a constant stream of posts, sharing our lives over social media. A concert or movie is shared by a group of strangers interested in a common thing. We all love to share in something good, something fruitful.  No one wants to miss out on a good thing. 

This reflects the saying that ‘you don’t have to go out of your way to do Manaakitanga, it goes out of its way to find you and invite you into a new way of being’. 

The concept of Manaakitanga encourages us to reach out beyond the desire to share on the condition of self-preservation. It’s easy to share in a safe environment with those you trust and like. Generosity really blossoms however when your life is shared in a way that challenges our insecurities and fears which guide us every day.

Our willingness to confront and own our insecurities and fears however, learning to share our lives in spite of them, can create a generous and inclusive culture.  Just as in Acts 4, as a community of faith, it can be one of our biggest testimonies and contributions to society; simply by our practice of Manaakitanga through an unconstrained shared life.

Clint Gibson