Leipakoa was an inquisitive child. She was always asking the village chief tricky questions that even he in his wisdom struggled to answer. “How do you think of these things, Leipakoa? You should be out having fun with the other pikanini, collecting shells, going fishing, that sort of thing.” The chief always said he would answer her questions “later”, but then he would go to the nakamal for the rest of the afternoon, drink kava, and forget all about Leipakoa’s questions.
One day Leipakoa was thinking especially heavy thoughts. She had wandered away from the other pikanini, who were arguing around the old banyan tree about who was the greatest. Dragging her bare feet through the crushed coral shore, she looked out to sea and wondered, What does it really mean to be great?
Glancing toward the chief’s house, she thought for a moment of asking him this question. But then she saw him walking towards the nakamal, and she knew there was no point wasting her time or the chief’s.
Many people say the chief is great, she thought, maybe that’s what it means to be great- to have big lands and a big name. Although Leipakoa respected the chief and his important position in their village, she somehow didn’t feel like this was the answer her heart was looking for.
“There has to be a kind of great that we can all be, even without a big name or big lands.”
“What was that, Leipakoa?” Masok’s voice startled her.
“Oh, hi Masok…I didn’t realise I said that out loud!” Leipakoa was a little embarrassed.
“Hemi oraet- it’s ok, Leilei (that’s what Masok, Leipakoa’s best friend, called her), “But really, I want to know- what were you talking about? You look like you are thinking about something very important.”
Smiling, Leipakoa relaxed. That, she thought, is why I love Masok- she is older than me but she never makes me feel silly.
“The other pikanini were arguing about who was the greatest. Efau said he was the greatest because he is the tallest. Joshua said he is the greatest because he gets the best grades in school. Someone said Rosita is the greatest because she runs the fastest, even faster than the boys. But I left them over there by the banyan tree. I thought all of the things they said were silly. I don’t think any of those things make you great.”
“Well, what do you think makes you great?” asked Masok.
“That’s what I’m trying to understand. I don’t know,” replied Leipakoa, a little frustrated and very serious.
“Can I tell you a story? I think it might help answer your question.” Masok offered.
Responding to Leilei’s eager nod, her friend went on.
“I heard the missionary give a toktok to all the pikanini the other day. He was talking about the same thing you are wanting to know- what does it mean to be great? He told about Papa God’s son, Jisas Kraes, and how he was perfect. The missionary said that we are all separated from Papa God because of all the bad things in our lives- our bad thoughts, bad actions, that sort of thing- and that the only way we could see Papa God and talk to him again was if someone perfect gave up his life, to take the punishment we deserve.” Masok paused, eager to share the story with her best friend but not wanting to go too fast or miss anything important.
“Go on,” Leilei urged.
Encouraged, Masok continued. “Well, because Jisas Kraes was the only perfect one, he had to die and take our punishment. The missionary said that is what it means to be great. To give up your freedom so that someone else can be free; to give up your life so someone else can live.”
Leipakoa was looking somewhat satisfied, but she still had questions. “Ok, I agree with you- that is great. But what about the rest of us? How can we be great? We can’t all go and die like that.”
Masok couldn’t help giggling. “No, we can’t. But we don’t have to- not exactly. We can die in a different way- we can make our own desires die so that we can put other people first. That is how we can be great like Jisas.”
After a long time looking at the waves break over the reef, Leipakoa finally sighed, and smiled. “Thanks, Masok. I think you’ve answered my question.”
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