As we gathered around the grave of baby Mona, we got a taste of what it is to love like God does.
The Mangere community ensured that baby Mona, who was found dead in a local park last year, had a proper funeral. We sung, we shared prayers and we wept. I wonder how many people struggled as I did to keep the tears from turning into outright wailing. The weather, as Sua observed, was fitting for the day, “tears from heaven”.
God loves like this. We didn’t look at baby Mona and place blame. Around that gravesite we simply loved Mona unconditionally. Baby Mona didn’t need to earn our love – we gave it without question. We knew instinctively that this baby needed our love and was worthy of it.
At the end, the young people took turns to shovel the dirt into the grave and I found myself unable to turn away. We stood and talked in groups, no one seemed to want to leave before we could find a way to stop this from happening again. But eventually, of course, we had to leave.
We gathered again at the Mangere Cossie Club still searching for solutions. We imagined the mother. Was she young and unmarried, too scared to tell her family the truth? Could have been a mother in her 40s with an overcrowded household already, under pressure to provide for everyone on very little? Where was the extended family in this story? Where was the father? Where was the faith based support in a community that boasts so many churches? Was lack of mental health funding the problem? We didn’t have the answers but it was easy to come up with more questions.
There was a sense of pride in that room. Only in Mangere, we stated, could something like this happen – caring and coming together in this way for a baby that was abandoned. Yes, I agreed – it felt good to be here, Mangere is a special place and we did a wonderful thing today.
But, I added, it’s ‘easy’ for us to love a dead baby. Baby Mona was not at fault. Mona will place no demands on us now, no ongoing support, funding or housing needs.
How do we respond, collectively or individually, to the person sitting outside the shops asking for money? To a young solo mum needing help raising her kids? To a lonely older person who would love to spend regular time with us? How do we unconditionally love people in our community with mental health issues?
Is it easier to step out in love when you set ‘blame’ aside?
The hardest thing for me and my faith (as I say often) is getting my head around how much God loves me. God loves us, as God believes we are worthy being loved. We don’t have to earn it.
The next step is to love others like God loves us. It’s a big ask.
Let’s keep talking, keep being the incredible community we witnessed on Saturday and help each other and our government to find new ways to love better.
Click here to read what Rev Emily said at the vigil held last year.