Usually an exchange of smiles is all Aucklanders can handle with strangers on public transport, but this afternoon was different.
My smile was met with a friendly comment about the weather, followed by an eye-opening personal story that I have never forgotten.
“Gees it’s cold out there tonight, isn’t it?”
My acquaintance for the journey offered a warm, genuine grin, with firm but kind eye contact. The ‘Maori Wardens’ uniform he was sporting suited his strong, fit build, and his scars and missing teeth perhaps have a possible insight into his past.
“Yes, it is!”
“Where are you from, anyway?”
“Right here in Auckland.”
The gentle hum of the moving train enticed my body to sleep-mode, as the Warden and I watched trees wisp by in silence.
I’ve always been intrigued by the Maori Wardens program…
“Hey, what made you decide to work for Maori Wardens, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“They found me, actually. I was a cage fighter.”
“I wouldn’t have lasted much longer. That stuff is bad for you.”
This encounter sparked an uncomfortable picture in my mind. One of this poor gentleman caught up in the life of what is deemed the most dangerous sport of all. Succumbed to the expectations of those around him. Needing the money maybe. Unable to see a way out.
Of course, this is just an assumption.
But regardless of the details of his story,
Imagine having a life like that.
Side note: For those who are unaware, Maori Wardens are an amazing organisation who serve our communities in numerous ways. They provide our people with new skills and ways forward, and train them to volunteer in our communities providing health, safety, and community development services. Check out their website if you’d like to support them or find out more: https://www.tpk.govt.nz/en/whakamahia/maori-wardens