The Spreading of a Fine Mat

By Christopher Malielegaoi. 08 October 2023, 9:30AM

“The essence of love is kindness” Robert Louis Stevenson.

I have a precious memory. It’s so precious that I am wondering whether I should spread it out for all to see, like a finely woven Samoan mat or if I should fold it neatly and place it back under my mattress. As I was oscillating back and forth, I worried that this memory would one day lose its brilliance as I got older, or worse, the termites of time would turn this fine mat into shreds of dry leaves destined for the fire. To calm my worries, I will display it for all to see so that if at least one pair of eyes should see it and one pair of hands would touch it then at least it would not be lost. My precious memory opened my eyes to the beauty of kindness and it was then I decided that I would be kind forever. 

When I was six years old and my little brother was five, we stayed at a house by the sea with our parents. The sandy beach was about 10 metres away from our back porch and in the sea, we had many adventures. I remember one particular day when the skies were a clear deep blue with not a cloud in sight, Dad’s orange fishing boat was anchored not too far from the sandy beach. My brother and I ran into the sea and swam towards the boat. We climbed onto it jumped off into the sea and explored the tunnel underneath the hollow part of the boat before climbing up through the hole that led back onto the boat and jumping off again.

It wasn’t long before a group of kids, aged six or seven walked slowly towards us with sticks. I could see that they wanted to join us on the boat and perhaps thought we would not allow them. I looked at them from the boat and continued staring until slowly I went into what I can only describe as a trance. And in that state, I understood I would be making a choice that would determine my future self. My first thought was to fight them and not let them anywhere near the boat. My second thought was to be kind and invite them onto the boat.

At that decisive moment, I decided to be selfless and put the happiness of the kids first before my own. Coming out of that state, my look of indignation transformed into a kind and inviting smile and I shyly said in a loud voice. “Come, Come.” I extended my arms beckoning them, “Come, do you want to play?” The next thing that happened made me a lover of kindness. The sticks dropped from their hands and the war-ready faces turned into smiles of excitement. 

They climbed onto the boat and explored around it before jumping off into the water and climbing back on. They smiled and laughed with us as we tried different ways to jump into the sea. I was silently amazed at how quickly the stand-off was forgotten and replaced by the sounds of kids splashing around and loudly screaming in joy on that fine Saturday afternoon.

I remembered that a shadow of a man had been standing far off behind a coconut palm tree and had watched the whole scene as it unfolded and saw how it was wrapped up again. He looked like a dark, mysterious figure who stood silently, perhaps the only adult to have witnessed my memory from a different angle.

Before I knew it, the kids we had played with disappeared and it was only my brother and I on the boat; the sun was beginning to set and the whole beach was quiet and empty. I motioned to my brother that we should go home. As we made our way up the sand, the same, dark mysterious figure that stood behind the coconut palm tree had pulled a canoe into the water and asked us if we wanted to ride in it. My brother and I hopped into the canoe and the mysterious man started paddling it out to sea. He paddled silently; every now and then he would look at us and smile. The breeze gently blew and the waves were a dark blue. I wondered to myself why he would take us on a canoe ride.

When we reached the shore, he carried us out of the canoe and onto the sand and told us to hurry home as it was getting late. I found out later that the mysterious man was the father of the kids we played with on the boat and that taking us on a canoe ride was his way of thanking us for allowing his children to play with us on the boat. I began to understand that he was repaying the act of kindness I had shown earlier. 

I often bring my precious memory out to see if I have remained true to my promise to always be kind. And when I have seen it and touched it, I gain strength to always weave the mark of kindness into my thoughts, words and actions forever. 

• Christopher Malielegaoi is a Year 7 student at Samoa Primary School. This literary piece won him 2nd place in the Year 7 English category of the Samoa Observer Short Story competition.

By Christopher Malielegaoi. 08 October 2023, 9:30AM
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