My wife Lindi and I recently vacationed at one of our favorite places on earth: Maui, Hawaii (love those free flights via air miles!). We stayed for several days with two of our dearest friends, Allison and L. David. I wrote to Dave prior to our coming asking if he knew anyone connected with a local school where I could meet with students to discuss Inheriting the Trade and the legacy of slavery.
He connected me with Susan Hendricks, the principal at Sacred Hearts School in Lahaina, as well as Mary Anna Waldrop, the 8th grade teacher there. They arranged for me to meet with all the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders for just over an hour.
We talked about slavery throughout the world at every point in history, including in Hawaii (when the Tahitians arrived around 1,000 A.D. they enslaved the Marquesas people who had first inhabited Hawaii 500 years earlier). We also discussed the 27 million people who are enslaved throughout the world today (including 200,000 in the United States). We talked about how to repair the damage from such a horrific institution.
For the most part I speak with college and university students. I do speak with high school and middle school students when I have the opportunity and I’m so glad I had this particular opportunity.
There are two reasons I write about this experience today. One is that these students were so engaged, respectful, and curious. I am exceedingly impressed with the work that the principal, faculty and everyone else at Sacred Hearts do with these young people.
The second reason I write has to do with gratitude. When I concluded my presentation and all the questions had been asked and answered, the students proceeded with an exercise they’ve been taught at Sacred Hearts. They offered gratitude. I was startled and unprepared to listen to student after student stand, look me in the eye, and thank me for sharing my family story, for taking time to be with them, for answering their questions, for listening to them, and so on.
I’m definitely not used to this. It was hard to take and wonderful to listen to. I, in turn, thanked them for all they brought to the discussion. This exercise in gratitude was a wonderful reminder that as important as it is to thank others it is also important to graciously receive gratitude from others. I won’t soon forget this experience and look forward to the next time we visit Dave and Allison. Sacred Hearts School will be on my list of places to visit.
I’ve posted a few photos of our visit to Sacred Hearts here.
To Susan, Mary Anna, Beau, Patty, and Tina, I’m grateful that you allowed me to spend time with your students. And to the Sacred Hearts students. You taught me a powerful lesson I will not soon forget.