Farewell Molokai `Opio

It’s that time of the year when Molokai’s youth head off to the outer islands and the mainland. Some of them are fresh 2007 grads while others have just come back during the summer break. While many of these proud Molokai-born will return to visit, very few will return to stay.

It is a heart wrenching reality for the families whose children leave the nest. It is an accepted truth that in order to make a go in life our young must move on to the outside world where experience and a wider perspective await.

Unfortunately it is also widely believed that by returning to Molokai our youth forfeit their opportunity of having a good job, owning a home or supporting a family. Thus many of our youth remain away.

And it’s not just Molokai’s children. In fact, there are more native Hawaiians who live outside of Hawaii than there are who remain. While it makes economical sense – a four bedroom home in Las Vegas for $150,000 versus a $500,000 3 bedroom shack on Molokai – it doesn’t mean that there is no option for returning.

Will you return to stay? It is a question I was faced with.

By the time I made it to high school, I knew my heart was with Molokai and I knew I wanted to live my life here. My history teacher, Mr. Nakamura, is very much like Yoda in the Star Wars movies – he never talks too much but usually has sage advice when he does. He thought it was great that I wanted to return, but he warned, “Yamashita, don’t come back until your basket is full!”

I lived away for 13 years filling my basket, at which point I began to wonder if my dream to return would slip away. I told my family and others back on Molokai that I wanted to come back. My grandmother would call me from time to time to tell me about a job which didn’t fit my personality.

Finally, in 2005, I was offered a part time job at the Molokai Dispatch. If things went well the owners gave me the option to buy the business. I took it as a sign and dove back into Molokai life.

It’s now a few years later and I can say I’ve never worked so hard in my life – at times I wonder if I hadn’t filled my basket enough. I have learned first hand that it is financially difficult to make ends meet on the Friendly Isle.

But as hard as it is, it is also easy. I am surrounded by family, friends, and the people of Molokai who are known for their generosity. When I don’t have enough, someone else does and is willing to share what they have.

Not only that, but I have a five minute commute to work and in my off-time I’m instantly at ease in the water or the mountains. Molokai is a beautiful place to live.

In the past two years I have seen many help wanted ads pass through the newspaper and not enough of our own filling the positions. I have seen many non-Molokai people, young and old, rich and poor, establish themselves here. They are driven by the same reason all of us live here – they love Molokai.

Molokai is the last Hawaiian Island because our cultural values and link to the land has not been lost. And because this land is defined by its people, the only way for Molokai to maintain its cultural integrity is if Molokai people continue to live and make their lives here.

To the `opio leaving Molokai, if you have it in your heart to return, I challenge you to come back. During this time of change it is up to the younger generation to take up the vision of what Molokai should be and to perpetuate the proud tradition of what Molokai is.

Until then, have fun out there. Learn a lot, come home and visit often, and make sure to “fill your basket.”

A hui hou, Todd Yamashita


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