Getting the point in Kalaupapa

The story goes that the great Chinese philosopher and teacher, Confucius, was holding forth one day to his class on his Silver Rule, “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.” Evidently the class was not responding to his message in the manner he had hoped for and desired, or perhaps just did not get it. So wishing to get some positive reaction, he raised his voice a decibel and said, “He or she who sits on tack gets the point.” Almost immediately one young student rose to his feet and said, “Yes, Master Confucius, and rises to the occasion.” For that he got a standing ovation.

Now if Confucius had been here in Kalaupapa this week, he would have been most happy with the response of a group of senior students from Damien Memorial High School in Kalihi, Honolulu. They got the point right away and most certainly rose to the occasion. On Thursday morning they arrived in Kalaupapa, led by their vice principal, Carlo Carrasco, intent on experiencing this Sacred land of SS. Damien and Marianne and at the same time being of service to the Church and to our community. 

So it was that on that same morning I found myself in the midst of lovely teen-age girls and muscular boys while pulling clinging vines off the walls of the garage. I haven’t had so much fun since my teen years — just a few years ago. They were so enthusiastic about the job that they wanted to climb onto the roof to finish the job. Of course, all this time they had a video camera trained on them. I confess that I was a spoilsport, because I told them that we did not have a ladder long enough to reach the roof. Mea culpa! The next day I “stumbled” on an extension ladder which the accompanying adults used to finish the “surgery” at the roof’s edge. 

On Wednesday afternoon a caravan of vehicles took us to Kalawao and Damien’s Church, St. Philomena. There, some of the students helped Meli in the interior of the church while others worked on the outside cleaning the graves in the churchyard. Again the enthusiasm was obvious. Then it was on to Judd Park and the Landing for viewing, reflecting, and picture taking. 

On the way home to the Kalaupapa side we stopped to make the 10-minute hike up to the Kauhako crater, now dormant for about a half million years. Thank the Lord that no one got pushed over the edge into the crater. They remembered the Silver Rule of Confucius, “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.” That evening the teens invited the local community to a delicious spaghetti dinner. And I did not have to resort to Pepto Bismol that night.

After a tour of the museum on Thursday morning, teens and adults set out on the daunting trail to Topside Molokai. I was excused, thank the Lord, because I was to be a tour guide for two Sisters in the afternoon. All made it safely to the top and back down in about four hours. One girl did say that she had been bumped by a mule on the way down the trail but suffered no ill effects. I guess the mule likes girls and I can’t blame it. I like them myself. After returning from the hike, some of the group went for a dip at Damien’s Landing. It has been said that “all good things come to an end.” So at 5:30 p.m. we gathered at Kalaupapa’s Terminal One to say aloha to our friends. It had been a memorable and exciting time for them and a rejuvenating time for us. They had gotten the point of their visit and had risen to the occasion. Aloha.

Anchor columnist Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.

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