Editorial: Entertaining angels

Last updated 11:35 23/02/2013
 Tania and Steve Egerton
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
KINDNESS OF STRANGERS: Tania and Steve Egerton say that in rescuing Ye Aung they did what any other Southlander would.

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OPINION: A knock on the door at 3am. Who would not be suspicious or concerned?

The figure that stood on the doorstep of Tania and Steve Egerton's Eastern Bush home was foreign and forlorn. Lightly clad, utterly lost, and desperately cold and hungry amid a biting Southland hoar frost.

Ye Aung, a Burmese seaman, had jumped ship from a Korean fishing vessel in Bluff, fleeing the notorious slave-like conditions that have so disgraced our territorial waters.

He was amid his third night of wandering, having covered 122km, seeking Lyttelton but veering Te Anau-wards and winding up at Eastern Bush. The couple took him in, heard his "awful story of hardship" and gave him food, shelter and rest. Once revived they took him to Fairfax with food for his journey.

It is also worth noting that after much-restored Mr Aung later arrived in Invercargill there was an established organisation, the Southland Multicultural Council, and a fellow countryman, Than Thait, who rather splendidly came to his aid.

Six years later, Mr Aung is an apprentice mechanic in Auckland and has applied for citizenship. His abiding gratitude is still profound and with a little helpful publicity he was just this week able to identify the Good Samaritan couple whose names he had not known, but whose help, he attests, saved his life in his weakened, disoriented state. He looks forward to meeting and thanking them in person.

Nice. We are not generally susceptible to biblical quotations but, come on . . . "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: For thereby some have entertained angels unawares". Hebrews 13:2. As for whether Mr Aung might be an angel, well, let's just remember that the Greek word being translated here really means "messenger". And Mr Aung certainly has a message now, about the profound effects a helping hand can have.

The Egertons say they did what any Southlander would. We hear that a lot and long may it continue. Good Samaritan stories still abound, throughout the province, the country and beyond.

In instances like this, and the recent case of Englishman Roger Button who crossed the world to thank Southlanders who, as children, contributed to relief parcels to the malnourished Brits after World War II, the thank-yous can span years or even decades.

Other times they promptly hit headlines, deservedly so in the recent cases of two young women who intervened in a violent domestic incident in Ngaruawahia, and two other people who picked an injured man off a Taranaki street and took him to hospital, the Hastings stranger who comforted a 13-year-old girl during her tormented wait for an ambulance after she was run down getting off a school bus, or a group of friends who rescued an elderly Helensville woman who had had a fall at home.

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Heaven forefend we reach the stage lamented in China last year when security footage showed 18 people pass by on foot, moped or bicycle, choosing not to react while a 2-year-old girl lay in plain sight dying from having been run over. Twice.

That led to demands for a "Good Samaritan" law rendering such heartlessness illegal.

Laws won't get you there. It takes values that have to be learned, ideally by example rather than recitation, and upheld by those around us. People caught being brave or generous on behalf of others reliably say that others would have done the same. We must see that as the encouragement it is. Our collective wellbeing depends on it.

- The Southland Times

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