Story: Simple Song

January 29, 2023

Micah 6:1-8
Matthew 5:1-12

Male ‘amakihi sing a very simple song. They also have a more complex song, and the female ‘amakihi sing that one, too, but when a male ‘amakihi is looking for a female ‘amakihi hoping that they’ll build a nest and a family together, he sings the simple song.

It’s basically a series of tweets strung together.

Not what you’d call complicated.

Ages ago, though, I can imagine that it might have been… more complicated. In those days the ‘amakihi would have sung songs that rose and fell, that stopped and started, that got louder and softer. Those are things that the ‘apapane do to this day. In those days, I imagine the ohi’a forest ringing with songs, echoing from the trunks and the branches, sometimes in harmony, sometimes in cacophony, and rarely quiet. Can you imagine that?

The thing is, it would also have been confusing. With ‘amakihi singing complicated songs, and ‘apapane singing complicated songs, and who knows what other birds contributing their own complicated songs, I can imagine ‘amakihi finding ‘apapane and ‘apapane finding ‘amakihi. It’s not a big issue, briefly embarrassing for both of them, but I can imagine that there was one young male ‘amakihi who decided he was tired of being mistaken for an ‘apapane.

“What about if I come up with something different from the ‘apapane?” he asked his elders.

“No one would come to you,” said the elders.

“Nobody is finding me now,” he told the elders. “I won’t be losing anything by trying something else.”

Some of the elders got huffy, which happens sometimes when they’ve been caught not thinking clearly.

“I’m going to try it,” he said,” and some of them huffed at him. With a complicated song, of course, and an ‘apapane turned up to see if there was somebody looking for her.

The young ‘amakihi found a good branch and began to sing his simple song: just a note repeated several times. It was loud. It was bold. It was impossible to miss even with all the complicated ‘apapane and ‘amakihi songs about. A couple of female ‘apapane turned up, intrigued. But best of all, along flew a young ‘amakihi hoping to find a husband and build a family.

“Nice song,” she said.

“Thank you,” he said.

“I’m glad you kept it simple,” she said.

“So am I,” he said.

I don’t know whether anything like this ever happened among the ‘amakihi and the ‘apapane of Hawai’i Island. To be honest, probably not. Still, the simple song of the ‘amakihi has worked for them for a long time, and there are simple things that people can do that would work pretty well for us as well: Honesty. Caring. Fairness. Respect. Faith. It’s amazing how often we make it all complicated, and find that things fall apart, when Jesus’ words to “Love one another” are simple, clear, and would do so much to make a better world.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The story was told from memory of this text. Predictably, memory makes… differences.

Photo of an ‘amakihi by Bettina Arrigoni – Hawaii Amakihi (male) | Palilia Discovery Trail | Mauna Kea | Big Island | HI|2017-02-09|12-21-50.jpg, CC BY 2.0,

2 thoughts on “Story: Simple Song

  1. A splendid story … in two weeks maybe (curiously next week I preach for the Indonesian church and that would be far too complicated translated sentence by sentence … it needs always to be a “simple” message) It will also have me singing Leonard Bernstein’s “Sing God a Simple Song” one of my favorite pieces of all time.

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