The Prime Minister should renew her call for New Zealanders to be kind.
We heard it often during the early days of Covid-19 and particularly during lockdown. It did start to irritate after a while but we responded, possibly because we didn't know what we might be facing in the near future.
It was all unknown back then for New Zealand, and the world, and what does a little kindness cost anyway? A little thoughtfulness, regard for the feelings of others, empathy.
But now it appears we are back to the good old days, hurling unnecessary abuse when we feel upset, offended or heaven forbid, ignored.
Supermarket and service station workers have been sharing their experiences. How they are often treated by customers, abused verbally and sworn at, even pushed and shoved.
One worker said she loved her job and couldn't understand why this was happening. From the time Covid social distancing was put in place, it was apparent some people were not handling it well.
She said she finds it hard to cope now because she never knows when the next barrage is going to come. She has developed anxiety problems.
That supermarket chain is now going to review its staff safety plans. It knows it has a legal responsibility to provide a safe work environment for its employees.
We need to stop being mean and nasty. Covid is likely to be taking a toll on individuals and families as they struggle to hang on to old, familiar routines. It can't be easy if your hours of work have been reduced, you have lost your job or your business has closed.
But we are in this together and the person lucky enough to have a job probably knows it and just wants to do their best.
Those who work in service industries are not usually paid above-average wages.
Typically, they are paid the minimum or living wage, often with shift and weekend work required. Apparently, shoppers don't normally direct outbursts of anger at their peers, those they work closely with and socialise with.
They restrict their shouting and haranguing to those who don't have the power to retaliate. There it is again, the old power imbalance. They wouldn't attempt it with someone at their perceived level or higher up, someone who will tell them in no uncertain terms where to go.
They are calculating about who they target.
In America, people are posting "Karen and Wayne" video clips on Facebook. These capture customers abusing shop staff. They certainly know how to rant and rave over there. What amazes me is how respectful the staff are in dealing with the abuse - perhaps they are trained in how to diffuse nasty situations.
Even so, they shouldn't have to. The clips go viral and show this ugly side of human nature. When confronted by their own employers, some of the abusive shoppers who got caught on camera lost their jobs.
Their employers simply said: "This person does not demonstrate our company values." Goodbye.
Supermarkets, in particular, should now respond quickly with a message from management using their loudspeaker system to broadcast regular messages to inform customers: "We value both our customers and staff. We strive to provide quality products and first-rate customer service. Please treat our staff with the same respect we believe you deserve. Customers breaching this policy will be escorted from the premises. We take staff safety seriously and have zero tolerance to all forms of workplace abuse."
So much has changed in the last 18 months. We have become anxious about a whole raft of things. We don't respond to situations in the same old way anymore.
What we know and had control over feels different now, we don't quite know why and we don't want it to be this way. We want reassurance that we're doing okay. That no matter our current situation we are moving forward, slowly perhaps, but heading in the right direction nevertheless.
No one could have foreseen what world leaders would have to grapple with as they tried to halt the spread of Covid and protect their countries, the fallout and impacts on economies and whole populations.
New Zealand has fared better than most countries. Surely we are not going to blow it all by coming out the other side intact, but meaner in attitude and human spirit.
- Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is chairwoman of the Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency, a Lakes District Health Board member and Rotorua District councillor.