Beautiful Mangonui Fishing Village

I consider it a real privilege to be able to interview some of our elders on Voices From the North. Neva Clarke McKenna is one such elder and she’s an amazing woman. Neva was born just after the First World War, and was 87 at the time of our talk in 2007. She is an accomplished writer and historian. She is also an actress, a mother and friend and humble helper of many. In preparation for the interview I got to know Neva a little and the following words represent my meagre efforts to capture a little of what Neva has to say:

‘I had my 87th birthday this year. I grew up in Gisborne. My father was a wonderful man. When he left Ireland he said he would never set foot in a church again because of the hypocrisy he had seen in Ireland; and he was true to his word. The only time I ever saw him in a church again was for his funeral and then I didn’t really see him, only his casket. My mother and we children used to go to church but not my father. Once a week, the Presbyterian minister came to our house, to talk to Dad. They had great talks. Dad had a bible; he just didn’t go to church.

When I was about eight, I was out in garden with my father. He was planting onions and there were many ants around where he was working. I asked him, “Are there Catholic and Protestant ants?”

He said to me, “I don’t think so, Nugget. But they can fight with each other just like Protestants and Catholics.”

He used to encourage me to keep asking questions. Even then I was curious about everything. He also used to tell me to keep my mouth closed and my ears open. Then I would learn a lot. I asked him how I was to keep my mouth closed and still ask questions. He said, “When you are older you will know the right time to listen and the right time to ask questions.”’

I trust that you enjoy this inspiring interview with Neva Clarke McKenna:

It offers a glimpse into the world of yesterday, of growing up during the depression, of wartime Europe (Neva served in Italy in WWII), and of Neva’s approach to historical research and writing. I’ve been inspired by this woman. Her humor rings through our conversation. For more on Neva and the creation of her book Mangonui: Gateway to the Far North click here.

I said at the beginning of the hour that it has been my privilege to get to know Neva these last few months. Here are a few words about friendship that were sent to me by email recently:

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you know which one it is, you will know what to do for that person. When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.

Believe it, it is real. But only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons, things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.

It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.


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Radio host, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.

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