Photo of wild Bamboo Shoots

Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Omoiyari . . . Think of others first and good karma will return to you. — Frances H. Kakugawa

New Year’s. Traditionally, it is a time of hope and renewal and looking forward. But I’m going to take a different path here and look back. Sometimes there are life-changing events worth revisiting time and again. They are quiet milestones of our lives that would do us best if they became part of our present and future. All of us have had events like these in our lives. Here are a few of mine:

When I was 18 years old and a freshman at the University of Hawai‘i – Hilo Campus (today, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo), I lived with a haole family, working as a live-in maid for my room and board. The transition from Kapoho was earth shattering as I shifted from chopsticks to place settings with numerous forks and spoons.

What I missed most during those years was rice. In my new household, the standard sandwich was made with mayonnaise, lettuce and peanut butter. But by some miracle, at Hilo campus, I had musubi (rice balls) and okazu (side dishes) for lunch every day for the next year and a half. A fellow freshman, Ella, must have sensed my drool as I watched her enjoy her rice balls and okazu lunch as I bit into my haole sandwich. For the next three semesters, Ella brought me a home-made lunch of musubi and okazu every day until we transferred to the Mänoa campus on O‘ahu. Every day.

(When I transferred to UH-Mänoa, I ate bologna sandwiches for 15 cents, which was all I could afford. So, please don’t ever feed me bologna or peanut butter and mayo sandwiches — just thinking about them makes my stomach turn upside down.)

I knew then that I would take that daily rice ball “gift” and someday pass on Ella’s act of kindness and generosity to someone else who needed it as much as I did back then. Opportunities were abundant.

Frances Kakugawa was her mother’s primary caregiver during her five-year journey with Alzheimer’s disease. A native of Kapoho on Hawai‘i island, she now lives in Sacramento. Frances has melded her professional training as a writer and educator and her personal caregiving experiences to write several books on caring for people with memory-related illnesses. She is a sought-after speaker, both in Hawai‘i and on the Mainland, sharing strategies for caregiving, as well as coping with the stresses of caregiving.

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