By Suzanne Damian (Class of 1952)
I was born in Sprekelsville during the cane field plantation days delivered by a midwife as was many of us of that generation. I helped to care for seven siblings. Our home had a kitchen with dirt floors, an outhouse, and we gathered vegetables in the field. Then during the war our family moved to Lanai. War time meant covering the windows with black paper so no light could be seen. There was curfew and sirens every night. I remember the emergency gas masks, the bomb shelters and the island’s Japanese families being separated from us. Hardship faced everyone.
We all grew up together, whether Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Hawaiian, and so on. We were not taught to discriminate because we were all the same poor hard working plantation folks. We all ate home grown vegetables which my mom cooked it in a variety of ways for our family. Those plantation days taught us to be humble, forgiving as well as to be strong to survive the war time and hard work in the fields.
School lunches often had peas and carrots which I disliked. I only had two pairs of shoes growing up on Lana’i and both had to last as long as possible. I remember my first prom gown was white although during high school I wasn’t allowed to go out alone with boys. My father was very strict. I can still picture his leather belt, and guava or hibiscus branches smacking across my legs for childhood violations. In those days, it was not child abuse but the way all children were disciplined. Now I can thank my father for his strict ways as it molded me to understand family discipline was necessary with our large family.
Today, I can see how my childhood, my family and friends have all taught me to be more forgiving and loving towards all people and animals. I reflect on my poor youth to my middle age and now my senior years and see it as a full circle. A full circle from the hard plantation days to a more fortunate lifestyle today. I give thanks and give back to all who I can help.
There is a saying that says when you give it will come back tenfold. I believe that all kind acts will be returned many times over. That belief sustained me as I remember having my fortune told when I was in my 30s and it was read that I would have an illness. At that time, I prayed to change that negative fortune reading and by doing kind acts as much as possible. Now as a survivor, I believe that acts of kindness and a benevolent God has made me a better and stronger person today. Each morning, I greet the day with a smile, and give thanks as life is very precious and tomorrow is not promised. Yes indeed life is a full circle and we are all a part of that circle of life. God bless us all!