Story: The Hardest Thing

September 25, 2022

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

They were an unusual collection of friends. They literally came from different parts of the world: from land, from sea, and from air, a mongoose, a honu, and a kolea. I don’t know how it first happened, but they’d developed the habit of taking a spot on a beach, with the honu pulled up in the sun, and the kolea looking for tidbits, and the mongoose taking a brief rest while the three talked story.

Today they were deciding what was the hardest thing.

“Rocks are the hardest thing,” shuddered the mongoose. “They hurt my paws sometimes, and a couple times when I wasn’t careful I knocked my head on one. Rocks are definitely the hardest thing.”

“Rocks are pretty hard,” agreed the honu, “but they also make nice shelter when the waves are high. You just nestle in behind them.”

“I fell into water once,” said the kolea. “I have to say it was pretty hard.”

“That’s right,” said the honu. “Water is the hardest thing. When the waves are crashing over me or the undercurrent is pulling me away from the beach, I’m grateful for the rocks. They don’t do that.”

“You haven’t tried the air,” said the kolea. “That’s a hard thing for sure. This last flight here to Hawai’i Island, I wasn’t sure I’d make it. We flew into winds that just blew us back and back and back. I can’t imagine anything harder than that.”

The three of them thought about this for a good long time, tossing in more examples of how rocks and water and air were hard things, when the honu said, “I’m hungry.” His two friends agreed.

They were about to split up to find dinner, when the mongoose said, “Wait just a moment. Wait just a moment and let’s think about this moment.

“Do either of you know that you’ll find food? I mean, absolutely know?”

The honu and the kolea admitted that they didn’t, although the kolea took a quick look around for a handy bug before saying so.

“In this moment, we’re all hungry, we all need food, right? And none of us are certain that we’ll find it.”

“Yes,” said the honu, “but we hope we’ll find it.”

“Right,” said the kolea, “we hope we’ll find it.”

“But isn’t this the hardest thing?” asked the mongoose. “We know what we need now and we don’t know if we can find it – not for certain. We hope we will… but doesn’t that make hope the hardest thing?”

That’s how a mongoose, a kolea, and a honu discovered that hope – that time we spend between realizing what we need and finding what we need – is, indeed, the hardest thing. Hope carries us from one to the other, but it may not be an easy journey, and it’s harder than high winds or strong waves or a solid rock.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

In the video above, the story was told from memory of this manuscript. Between gaps of memory and flashes of inspiration, the two are not the same.

Photo of a honu (before the arrival of a mongoose or a kolea) by Eric Anderson.

Story: World of Weeping

September 18, 2022

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1
Psalm 79:1-9

Up on Kilauea, where people look out over the great crater/caldera at the summit, a little girl was crying as if her heart would break. Why? Well, it probably had something to do with a trip and a fall and some bruised knees, and maybe because a favorite stuffed animal was all dusty. There were tears running through the dirt on her face.

This story is not about her, however, even if it starts with her. It is about a young koa’e kea, a white-tailed tropicbird, that was resting on a small ledge in the cliff just below the little girl and her family. She’d never heard such a sound before. She leapt into the air and circled about, watching the little human and her family as they comforted her, brushed the dirt from the stuffed animal, and headed away.

The young koa’e kea found her father had joined her circling. “What was that all about?” she asked.

“That was crying,” he said. “Creatures cry when they’re unhappy or in distress.”

“What a horrible noise,” she said, “and those drops of water from the eyes!”

Her father watched the human father who was carrying the little girl in his arms by this point and said, “It seems to work. A lot of creatures have their own version of tears.”

“I’ll never do anything of the kind,” announced the koa’e kea daughter firmly.

“Never?” asked the father.

“Never,” said the daughter.

“Hm,” said the father. “Fly with me for a little bit.”

The first thing they saw in their loops about the island was a mother pig and some piglets. One of the little ones had wandered into a thicket and got turned around, and he was squalling for his family. The sow heard him, found him, and herded him off to join the rest of the family.

The next thing they saw was an old ohi’a tree creaking in the wind. You and I wouldn’t say it was crying, exactly, but there was a light dust floating away on the breeze as the tree swayed. “Is it sad?” asked the young koa’e kea.

“Just a little,” said her faither. “It’s struggling to keep growing where it is, but it has special tears. They’re seeds, and even if this tree can’t grow, perhaps some of its seeds can.”

They flew about the cliffsides until they heard another sound. It was a koa’e kea nest, and the chick in it had spotted one of his parents. It cried its hunger until the mother satisfied it.

“Did I do that?” asked the young koa’e kea circling nearby.

“You did,” confirmed her father.

Last of all, they swooped and soared over the Halema’uma’u crater, watching the red lava, which was streaming from a vent in the crater side into the lava lake below.

“Is the mountain crying?” asked the young bird.

“You can say so,” said her father. “When the mountain cries, the island rises.”

“So all things weep,” said the koa’e kea.

“Maybe not all,” said her father, “but when they do, it’s usually for a reason. It helps them get through the time.”

“I guess if the rest of the world can do it,” she said, “maybe I can, too. If I need to.”

“If you need to,” said her father, and they flew off to the ocean for dinner.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

As always, Pastor Eric told this story from memory of the text above. The two versions are not the same.

Photo of a koa’e kea taken on Kilauea by Eric Anderson.

Story: Over and Around

September 11, 2022

Exodus 32:7-14
Luke 15:1-10

A few weeks ago, you might recall, I told a story about nene school. Do you remember that at all? In the story, the class got to talking while the teacher was working with one of the students. They didn’t listen when their teacher asked them to be quiet, until she got so frustrated that she flew off in a huff.

Or, well, a minute and a huff.

This story is about that same class and that same teacher, but now we’ll spend time with the young nene who was getting special instruction in flying.

The reason he needed extra help was, well, the fact that he would try anything. I mean anything. One of his early attempts at flying was to see what happened when he flapped his feet. Nene have webbed feet, to be sure, but they have less webbing between their toes than a duck does or than a Canada goose (which they resemble) does. It wouldn’t matter if they had the same amount of webbing on their feet. Ducks and geese don’t fly with their feet.

But he thought he’d give it a try. If you’re wondering how well it worked, it didn’t work well at all.

He tried flying with one wing pointing up at the sky and one wing pointing down at the ground. That was also, I must say, a crashing failure. He tried taking off by doing back flips. I’m afraid his classmates found that pretty funny, and I dare say you and I would have laughed, too. A lot of his experiments resulted in scattered feathers and, let’s be honest, strained muscles and a fascinating set of bruises (hidden beneath the feathers). Most of them ended right there on the ground where they began.

His teacher tried desperately to limit some of his ideas to things that wouldn’t lead to total disaster. Sometimes she succeeded. Sometimes she’d turn around for a moment, hear a honk and a clatter, and look around to find dust rising over another crash landing.

She had to admit, though, that he didn’t repeat his failures. If something didn’t work, he might try a variation or two on it, but he didn’t do the same thing twice. That sideways idea, for example. He tried it with the left wing up, and he tried it with the right wing up, but he didn’t try it with the left wing up a second time.

The teacher also noticed that every once in a while he found something new that she’d never seen before. One day, for example, he was flying at a good height, flipped over on his back, tucked his wings in, and pointed his beak at the ground. She watched in horror as he headed toward earth, but he pushed those wings back out again, caught the air, and leveled out going back the way he’d come. It was amazing.

“Why,” she asked him, “do you try everything when you know so many of the things you try can’t possibly work? Why don’t you follow the flying lessons nene have been using for years?”

He looked uncomfortable, as well he might (he’d just had another crash landing and the aches were settling in). “I could do that, I know,” he said, “and it would work just fine. But…”

“But what?” the teacher asked.

“But then I wouldn’t have tried everything, and I wouldn’t know about the things that nobody has tried, or nobody has passed down the word. I wouldn’t know what I can really do and what I really can’t.”

Trying everything is a hard way to do things, for sure. The good news is that trying things is a way to learn and to grow. Trying things is all about making spaces to find out who you are and what you can be.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The story above was told live from memory of this text.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

Story: Here. Not There.

August 21, 2022

Psalm 71:1-6
Luke 13:10-17

It’s been a while since I told a story about this kind of fish. It’s called a hinalea, a cleaner wrasse – in fact, a Hawaiian cleaner wrasse – and they’re small fish that live along the reefs in somewhat deeper water.

As small fish, you’d expect they’d be hunted by larger fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And they are, in fact, hunted – but not as food. Despite the fact that we’re so much bigger than a mosquito, they still come and land on us and try to eat a little bit of us, right? Similar things happen to fish, and unlike mosquitoes, a lot of these pesky creatures don’t let go. After a while, a fish can have quite a lot of unwelcome passengers, all of them trying to take a nibble on them. It’s not fun.

Cleaner wrasse eat those tiny pesky irritating creatures, gently nibbling them away from the skin and scales of the larger fish. They set up spots along the reef which people call “cleaning stations,” and where the larger fish will gather for a cleaner wrasse or three to remove those little pests. It’s a nice arrangement. The large fish go away greatly relieved, and the hinalea get, well, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

One particular school of hinalea had one of the busiest cleaning stations on the reef. The school leaders – and I know you want me to call them teachers, but a wrasse school isn’t a school, it’s a business, so the best term for school leaders is bosses – the school leaders had announced that they needed all the hinalea there at the cleaning station. No cleaning fish anywhere else.

They couldn’t clean all the time, of course. Nobody can eat all the time, despite the things you’ll sometimes hear about human teenagers. The cleaner wrasse would take a break for a while, but the only place they were allowed to clean was at the station.

One hinalea was on his break, lazily swimming along the reef and not much worried about anything, when a larger fish came along. It was an ‘uhu, a parrotfish, and it was in terrible shape. It had picked up so many pesky creatures that it was really painful. She was wandering aimlessly along the reef, unable to figure out which way she was going and where she could find a cleaning station. She spotted the lone hinalea with its bright blue and yellow and purple scales, and settled next to him.

She didn’t need to say anything. She needed help. The hinalea went to work. All alone outside the cleaning station and as covered as she was, this would take some time.

Another hinalea, one of the bosses on break, wandered over and stopped, shocked to see what he was doing. “This isn’t the cleaning station!” he said. “Stop that now!”

Our hinalea said nothing – his mouth was full. In fury, the other hinalea swam at him and chased him away from the ‘uhu, chased him all the way back to the cleaning station.

“This fish cleaned away from the cleaning station,” announced the boss. “What shall we do with him?”

The other bosses gathered menacingly. This didn’t look good at all. But just then the ‘uhu appeared and swam to the little wrasse in the center of the angry fish. “Thank you so much,” she said.

She turned to the bosses and said, “Do you know what this little one did? I had so many pests on me that I couldn’t find the cleaning station. He picked off enough of them that I could find you. I can’t tell you what would have happened if he hadn’t. I’m pretty sure you would have lost a customer.”

She looked at the hinalea again and said, “As good a job as you did, you got interrupted. Do you suppose you could finish?” And so he did.

Sometimes bosses in the world are foolish, and sometimes they are wise. This group of hinalea bosses chose wisdom that day. It remained important that everyone concentrate on the cleaning station – a lot of fish waited there – but if a hinalea on break could help get a fish to the station? That was good, and right, and important, too.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The story above was told live from memory of this text.

Photo of two hinalea by Dr. Dwayne Meadows, NOAA/NMFS/OPR – http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/reef0662.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2111807.

Story: When Nene Get Cranky

August 14, 2022

Jeremiah 23:23-29
Luke 12:49-56

It might surprise you to hear that young nene go to school. Many of us wish that their classes included one in staying away from roads that have cars moving on them, but apparently they don’t.

As you’d expect, though, they teach a lot about two of the big components of nene life. Eating and flying. They do learn about eating and flying from their parents, of course, but there’s definitely more to learn about both topics for a growing nene.

A little flock of young nene had gathered with their teacher and had just finished the eating section of the day. Eating lessons for a nene are both complicated and simple. They’re complicated because nene like to eat a lot of different things. If it’s green and its leaves are grass-shaped, they probably eat it. So there’s a lot to explore in an eating class.

What’s simple about it, of course, is that if it’s green and the leaves are grass-shaped, they’ll try to eat it.

Flying, however, is definitely an advanced topic. Nene have smaller wings for the size of their body than you’ll find on other birds. It requires effort to get that much bird off the ground. When there’s a few of them in the air, they fly carefully spaced in formation. That takes some learning. And, of course, they will pull a few special tricks from time to time, like making a barrel roll in midair.

The class this day had got pretty excited during the eating session and the young students were eagerly debating the merits of the various grasses they’d tried. Their teacher was talking with one of the young goslings who wanted some help with take-offs. As she spoke with him, the other nene got louder, and louder, and louder.

“Class, settle down,” said the teacher (I’m afraid teachers everywhere of every creature say that phrase a lot). “I’ll be right with you, and if you listen you can learn something about take-offs, too.”

They were quiet for a few moments, but rather like human students, the chatter started up again, and grew rapidly until the teacher couldn’t hear herself.

“Class, settle down!” she called.

They were quiet. For… a little bit. And despite the very helpful things she was saying about wing position on takeoff, the quickly raised the volume from a murmur to a racket.

The teacher honked in complete exasperation and shouted, “Class dismissed!” Then she flew away.

The students were shocked. This had never happened before. They looked at one another – and for once, they were silent. The one who’d been getting take-off instructions looked at them unhappily.

“Come on,” he said after a few minutes. “We need to go find her.”

They found her in a clump of ‘ohelo, taking a berry, then honking in frustration, then taking a berry. They waited until she’d slowed down on berries and on honking.

“We’re sorry,” they said.

“What are you sorry for?” she asked.

That was a question they hadn’t expected. What, after all, had they done? They weren’t sure they knew, except for the one who’d been getting take-off help.

“We’re sorry we didn’t pay attention when you were teaching us the things we want and need to learn,” he said.

“Are all of you sorry for that?” she asked.

Now that somebody had said it, they were.

You see, that’s when nene teachers get cranky: when they’re sharing the things young nene need and want to know, and the students ignore them. Fortunately, there are things that help. There’s ‘ohelo berries, of course, and a soothing turn around in the sky. Best of all, there’s the students who think to say, “I’m sorry,” and come back ready to learn.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The story is told from an imperfect memory of this manuscript. To responsive children. The story as told is not identical to the story as written, oh, no, not for a moment it isn’t.

Photo of nene on the wing by Eric Anderson.

Story: Two Wings and a Prayer

August 7, 2022

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40

The oma’o is a fairly small bird, living on the lower slopes of the volcanoes from Hamakua to Ka’u. When you’re an oma’o chick, you’re even smaller. He hatched and grew up in a hole in a koa tree, and about the only thing he could even imagine as he looked out from the hole was:

It’s a great big world, and I’m a very small bird.

He was, of course, a very small bird, but he grew to become, well, a larger but still very small bird. The world outside was still a lot bigger than he was. He watched his parents fly back and forth to and from the nest, and wondered how they did it. Their wings seemed awfully small to carry even their small bodies. Their feet seemed awfully fragile to grip a twig. How was someone like him to have any place in a huge world like this?

Young oma’o do some experiments that lead to flying. They move their wings around and start to preen them, to settle their feathers with their beaks. They start to hop and stretch their legs in the nest – but they don’t leave the nest. In fact, after they leave the nest, they don’t come back to it. They’ll stay where their parents can find them – they still feed them for a  while – but they don’t go back to the nest.

This young oma’o, however, wasn’t sure he wanted to leave the nest. Big world. Small bird. Small wings, big air. It was a night that the winds blew hard that he came to a decision.

“No,” he told his father. “I’m staying here.”

“Very smart, son,” said his father. “It’s a nasty night. The nest is a good place for now, and it’s not a great time to take your first flight.”

“No,” said the youngster. “I mean I’m just staying here. I’m not going to leave.”

The father didn’t know what to say, so he didn’t say anything. Nor did mother when the youngster told her in the morning.

“What are you going to do just staying in the nest?” asked mother.

“What I’m doing now,” he said.

“Wouldn’t you like to fly?” asked father.

“I don’t think so,” said the child.

It was mother who settled down with him and got him to say what was going on. The world was too big. The winds were too strong. His wings were too fragile. He was too small.

Then he asked, “How do you do it, Mom?”

She thought about it. “It is a big world,” she said. “I’m a small bird. My little wings aren’t much to carry me through strong winds. But I’ve got a couple of things that carry me through it all.”

“What?”

“Well, I haven’t got one just wing. I’ve got two. With only one, I don’t think I’d get far. With two, I can get anywhere I want.”

“But how did you make that first leap of faith?” he asked.

“I just flapped my wings and hopped, and as I hopped I hoped and prayed. Suddenly my wings caught the air and I was flying.”

Without even realizing it, the young fledgling was hopping and flapping. “So a wing and a prayer?” he asked.

“Two wings and a prayer,” said his mother, “and I took my first flight – just like you’re doing now.”

Sure enough, his flapping wings had caught the air and he’d taken off on his first short flight.

“Just like that,” he marveled, “on two wings and a prayer.”

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The story was told from memory of this manuscript text – which means that in the recording, it’s told differently.

Photo by Bettina Arrigoni – Omao | Hakalau NWR | HI|2018-12-02|13-40-46, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75174855.

Story: The Ambitious ‘Amakihi

July 31, 2022

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23
Luke 12:13-21

To you and I, an ‘amakihi nest doesn’t look that big. It’s sort of an irregular ball shape – it doesn’t look exactly like an egg, but you might possibly think, “Oh. It does look a little bit like an ‘amakihi egg, only larger.”

It might be large, but it’s still not large for us. Most ‘amakihi nests are a little bit larger than a softball. Made of grasses and twigs, they’ve got a bit of a cup shaped top to hold the two or three eggs.

A mother-to-be was pretty anxious about getting her nest ready for the eggs that she’d be laying. Her husband, sad to say, didn’t help much. Or at all. That’s not uncommon among the ‘amakihi of this island. He would bring materials and he would stay nearby to encourage her, but she did the selection and the weaving of all the grasses and twigs and fern leaves. It was her first nest, and she was absolutely determined that there would be no problems for her eggs. It was going to be safe and warm and dry.

So she started with the basic structure, and it widened out as the nest grew higher. When she got near the top, she began to form the rim around the little bowl shape where the eggs would lay. That’s when she got… worried about things.

“What if the eggs roll out?” she asked her husband when the nest seemed finished.

He looked at it carefully and said, “I don’t think it would. It looks like the nest I was hatched in.”

“I think they’d roll out,” she said.

“Do you want to make the sides higher?” he said.

“I do,” she said, and she set about it. This in turn made the nest start to expand outward because the sides had to be supported underneath. And they kept going up.

“I think that looks good,” her husband ventured one day. “I don’t think they’ll roll out of that.”

“But what if the hatchlings fall out?” she asked. “They can climb, right?”

The husband wasn’t sure.

“Higher,” she said, and the nest kept getting bigger.

The day came when she had to stop building because she had eggs to lay and it was time. She looked at them proudly resting at the bottom of the cup in the nest. “There,” she said. “You’re safe and I’ll keep you warm.”

Her husband looked down at her. He seemed far away. “Um. How is this going to work?” he asked.

“How is what going to work?”

“How are we going to feed the chicks?”

Her nest had become an oversized softball with a narrow hole in the top that led down into it – quite a long way for a small bird like an ‘amakihi. It was actually so far that if he strained his neck down and she strained her neck up they couldn’t actually touch.

“How are you going to get out to eat?” he asked.

The sides were going to be an effort to climb. She’d struggled, in fact, to get to the bottom to lay her eggs.

“I think,” she said slowly, “that we’re going to have make some changes.” She looked at the eggs below her. “That is, can you make the changes?”

“Just tell me what to do,” he said.

“Let’s start by pulling away the top – at least until I can see out,” she said. And that’s what they did – until the nest that was built for ultimate safety was actually fit to use.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

In the recording above, the story is told from memory of this text. It is rather different.

Drawing of 2 ‘amakihi by Frederick William Frohawk – The Birds of the Sandwich Islands (1890-1899), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36614147.

Story: The Suspicious Noio

July 24, 2022

Genesis 18:20-32
Luke 11:1-13
 
The young noio was hungry pretty much all the time. That’s not all that uncommon for a young noio, of course. He was growing very fast, going from just a little thing at hatching to about the size and weight of an adult in three weeks. At three weeks’ end he weighed six and a half times what he’d weighed when he broke the shell of his egg.
 
So he ate. A lot.
 
You and I wouldn’t find his diet very appetizing, but he certainly thrived on it. His parents would fish in the ocean, slurping down the fish and squid into their bellies. Then they’d go back to the nest, where they’d open their beaks and he’d poke his beak into their mouths. And then, well, the food would return.
 
Yeah, I know. Yuck. I’m glad we don’t do it that way, either.
 
To the young noio, however, this was how it was done. This was the way to eat. This was tasty (I know, yuck) and nutritious and, more than anything else, it was really successful. I mean. Imagine eating enough in three weeks to grow six times your size. That’s impressive.
 
It still took some time for the feathers to grow out and for his wing muscles to develop, so he took his first flight when he was six weeks old. The first flight was a little ragged, but he soon got better. He loved being out in the air, and zooming low over the sea, and coming back to the nest.
 
For some weeks, though, his parents continued to feed him. I know. Yuck. But he had to develop his flying skills before he could develop his food-finding skills. Noio don’t dive into the water to catch food. They fly low over the surface and pluck it from the water.
 
It turns out that for this young noio, that was a problem. He had no problems with the flying skills. But his first reaction to seeing a school of fish in the water below was… Yuck.
 
“That’s what we eat,” said mother.
 
“You have got to be kidding,” said her son. “That’s disgusting. Is there anything else?”
 
“Well,” she said, “there’s muhe’e (that’s squid). Shall we try those?”
 
I know. Squid. Yuck. As it happens, the young noio agreed with us.
 
“That’s even worse!” he said. “I can’t believe I have to spend the rest of my life eating these disgusting things!” He wouldn’t even try to catch one in his beak.
 
Mother and father both tried to persuade him that he should at least try these things, that they really were tasty, and that he’d been eating them without knowing it since he hatched (I know, yuck), but he was not persuaded. He kept feeding the way he’d always known (yuck) and wouldn’t even consider catching a fish.
 
While his parents were out fishing for themselves (and for him) and trying to think of something they could do, tutu came by. His grandmother had been very pleased and proud of him, and her daughter had asked her advice. She came right to the point.
 
“So you think your parents are lying to you?” she asked.
 
“Lying?” he said.
 
“So you think they’d offer you bad food when you’re hungry?” she asked.
 
“Bad food?” he said.
 
“So you think they don’t know how to show you what is good?” she asked.
 
He was silent.
 
“Have they done this before?” she asked.
 
“No,” he said. “Of course not.”
 
“Then why would they do it now?”
 
He said nothing.
 
“Fly with me,” said tutu noio.
 
When his parents got back to the nest, they found grandmother and grandson returned from his first successful fishing trip.
 
“I should have realized you wouldn’t lie to me,” he told them. “Now I know that you didn’t.”
 
by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

When recorded, I was delivering the story from a memory of this text – which means they’re not the same. It is distinctive, however, for including the coining of the word, “tentacally,” which sadly, isn’t in the prepared text.

Photo of a noio (black noddy) by Eric Anderson.

Story: The ‘Apapane that Didn’t Learn to Sing

July 17, 2022

Amos 8:1-12
Luke 10:38-42

The ‘apapane are known for their cheerful songs. Walk around in the ohi’a forests of Hawai’i Island and you will hear them. They produce all kinds of sounds, combining them together into a range of calls and melodies that make the forest ring.

But there was one ‘apapane that never learned to sing, and it happened in this way.

As young human beings, you learn a lot of things in schools, right? It’s somewhat the same for many kinds of fish, of course. A lot of them spend nearly their entire lifetime in schools, so they’re probably the best educated of the world’s creatures, don’t you think?

The ‘apapane don’t have schools. They have flocks, of course, and they have families. They learn to sing in choruses.

The year’s fledgling singers came together with one of the senior singers to form a new ‘apapane chorus and learn the basic melodies and sounds of ‘apapane song. They were excited and they were enthusiastic. Many of them had learned things from their parents and older family members, and they wanted to sing more and better and louder songs.

One ‘apapane turned up with so much eagerness that it just went running over. “Aren’t you excited?” he asked his fellow youngsters. “I’m really excited. What do you think they’ll teach us?”

The ‘apapane he asked opened her beak to answer the question, but he went right on to say something else to another bird that had just joined them. “I think singing is just the best part of being an ‘apapane. It’s like flying, but with your voice. Don’t you think so?”

The new ‘apapane started to reply, but before he got out a peep the excited ‘apapane had turned back to the first bird and continued, “I’m really looking forward to those really high sweeping calls. You know the ones? I’m sure you do. Do you think the instructor will know them? How could she not? Do you know who she is? Has she arrived yet?”

And it went on.

The instructor turned up and, for a moment, there was silence as she spoke to the new choristers. “Welcome, friends,” she said. “We’re here to learn the art of ‘apapane music. I hope you’ll all enjoy this. Let’s start with…”

“Oh, I will definitely enjoy this!” piped up our eager fledgling. “And so will he. And her. And that one over there. Are you going to teach us with the Kilauea method or do you use the Maui variant? Are there any specialty classes? How about song composition? And what about…?”

And it went on.

The instructor and the other students waited for a while to see if he would stop on his own. And… he didn’t. He just went on. Eventually the chorus teacher shrugged her feathers and went on to demonstrate some basic calls, and then some trills, and then some melodies. As the chorus grew in strength and confidence, there was this constant undercurrent of… well.

“I’ve been really interested in flycatching technique, you know? Sometimes that can improve the voice, right? And the different nectars produce different songs, I’m sure. I’d volunteer for that experiment. But really it’s the classic songs that impress me. Do they impress you? Of course they do, you’re here to teach them. Which one will you start with? I think it would be the Pali song, but perhaps you like the rising notes of the Pu’u Trill.”

And it went on. He never stopped. As a result, he never actually learned to sing.

Now, I know that not everyone is always interested in learning new things. I know that not everyone gets excited about learning to sing, or fly, or skip, or cook, or do any one of the many things that make up our lives. But there is something to learn from the ‘apapane that never learned to sing. The first step in learning is to stop talking for a moment and listen.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

The story as told is different from the story as written. You’ll probably notice that if you listen.

Photo of an ‘apapane – one who learned to sing, as much as we can tell – by Eric Anderson.

Story: Samaritans

July 10, 2022

Psalm 25:1-10
Luke 10:25-37

Mynas have a reputation. It’s a reputation that most of us wouldn’t want to have. They’re known for their loudness, and their squabbling, and their arguments, and their really loud arguments. Basically, they’re known for being petty, noisy, and aggressive. Not the reputation you’d like to have.

You will notice that attending church and listening to stories and songs and sermons isn’t on that list of things mynas are known for. But there was a myna who liked to perch near a church here on Hawai’i Island, and he actually stayed quiet to listen. He liked the stories that Jesus told.

One of his favorites was the story of the Good Samaritan. I’m sure you know it: after a man was beaten up by robbers, the person who came to help was not somebody the poor man knew, or one of the people that you’d expect to help. It was a Samaritan, somebody that you’d have thought would be among the attackers, not the helpers. It was the Samaritan that cleaned the man up, put bandages on him, brought him to a safe place where he could rest and recover, and paid an innkeeper to take care of him.

But who, wondered the myna, was a Samaritan in the bird world of Hawai’i Island? Who would you expect to make bad things worse? Who would surprise you if they turned around and helped? Who, by making things better, just might change the world around them?

Just then a cat came by. The myna perched on a branch above it, and instead of launching into a warning call, greeted the cat with a friendly chirp. Then he told the cat all about the Good Samaritan, about somebody who needed help getting help from the most unlikely somebody else.

“What do you think?” said the myna to the cat. “Could you be like the Samaritan? Could you help a bird instead of trying to catch it?”

The cat, I must say, was rather confused, but also intrigued. “I don’t know,” she said honestly. “I can see how that would make a big difference in the world, if I and my fellow cats started being helpful instead of being hunters.”

“I know somebody else who could be a Good Samaritan,” piped up another voice. It was a saffron finch who was perched in dense foliage of the same bush as the myna. Neither the cat nor the myna had noticed her.

“Who else could be a Good Samaritan?” asked the myna.

“You can,” said the saffron finch. “You know how you screech at us sometimes? You could stop doing that.”

“Now that I think of it,” said the cat, “there’s a few dogs that could definitely learn something from the Good Samaritan.”

“I guess,” said the myna slowly, “that nearly any of us could be the one who needs help. And I guess that nearly any of us could be the one who, against all expectation, is the one to bring help.

“We can all be a Good Samaritan.”

by Eric Anderson

Unfortunately, there was a technical error and the worship service of July 10, 2022, was not recorded.

Photo by Eric Anderson