Lean On Me – Nga Kupu Aroha

I nearly started to sob when Joe Walsh, Tim Schmit, and Vince Gill sang a waiata, acapella, at Hoani Waititi Marae Auckland, in support of the whaikorero from the Eagles’ kaumatua, Martin Cooper, in response to the haka powhiri given by Nga Tumanako, the people of the marae.

Well, in truth, I must have sobbed, because Richie Hardcore, who was sitting next to me on the manuhiri, gave me a back pat, ‘alright mate?’.

Everything has context, and my raised emotions were well founded and appropriate. This event was the continuation of a mission started in 2004 when Joe Walsh set out on the Sinner’s Tour, a three-gig tour of Aotearoa, the last of which was at Hoani Waititi, to raise awareness about the destructive impacts of methamphetamine usage, and to encourage people to ask for help.

Purely by accident of a gap in Joe’s schedule, deus machina, fate, or whatever, that day was the 25th anniversary of Joe Walsh being clean and sober. And the memory of Joe’s long road to recovery, the epiphany he experienced at Otatara Pa, Waiohiki, his several return visits to Otatara to maintain the mauri, and his generous agreement to come back to Hoani Waititi to affirm his message that recovery is possible, welled up within me.

But it was the lyrics of the waiata that broke the emotional dam. I don’t want to get all schmaltzy, and I do acknowledge that O’Reilly males tend to tear up when we sing Danny Boy at a whanau event. But, when Joe, Tim, and Vince stood behind Martin and began to sing, the accumulated frustration and exhaustion from our relentless fifteen-year-long Mokai Whanau Ora mission to reduce meth-related harm amongst our communities was washed away, and hope was restored.

This convocation of Eagles reminded me of the true mission, ‘aroha ki te tangata’, and I no longer felt tired.


Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show
You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on

There’s no doubt that we face a deep problem with meth-use in Aotearoa. It is indeed a long white cloud in a p-pipe, and the weather won’t clear any time soon. But, like climate change, we better learn how to deal with the reality of meth and build community resilience against it.

I’ll leave the supply control issue to the Police and our border control people in Customs. Their hand and resources have recently been strengthened and let them do their best. But demand reduction is our primary Mokai Whanau Ora effort, and the coalition Government’s focus on mental health and addictions and the shift of focus in drug policy towards harm reduction is encouraging.

As dispiriting as things sometimes are, let’s move out of the valley of lamentations and fire up our own community action.

On the 21st March we have a CAYAD (Community Action Youth and Drugs) hui at Waipatu Marae Hastings, one element of which is a webinar on effective community responses to methamphetamine harm reduction.

Join us online at awatransmedia@gmail.com and hear stories of encouragement and hope. Understand that whatever the situation, you are not on your own, and accept, at some stage, we all need somebody to lean on.

Hey, and thanks Richie Hardcore, yep, I’m alright now.

  • Mene kite Po - 9:14 pm on March 6th, 2019
    Rawe o koorero Chief... tuuturu
Leave a Comment