“Beauty All Around Us”
On Sunday, I shared a story from the book Moloka`i, by Alan Brennert, which I read over the previous couple of weeks. In the novel, a Catholic nun by the name of Sister Catherine had arrived at Kalaupapa, one of the most beautiful places in Hawai`i, to care for the patients who suffered from leprosy, also known today as Hansen’s Disease. Her first couple of weeks were especially difficult, as she dressed the wounds of young girls. She did her best all day long, every day, not to wretch as she tended one wound after another. After she had been there for a couple of weeks, she was unwrapping the bandages on the arm of a young girl by the name of Noelani, who was about 15. The wound was so horrible to look at, that Sister Catherine let out a horrifying cry and felt that she would throw up right then and there. She rushed outside and dropped to her knees. The beauty of Kalaupapa was far from her thoughts.
Fortunately, her colleague Sister Leopoldina covered for her, and when their shift was over, Leopoldina took her across the yard to the girl’s dining room. There was a cabinet there, in which Leopoldina rummaged through one of the drawers until she found a piece of paper. She told Sister Catherine the famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson had written something on the paper—something he wrote when he visited Kalaupapa in 1889—and then she read the poem:
To see the infinite pity of this place,
The mangled limb, the devastated face,
The innocent sufferers smiling at the rod,
A fool were tempted to deny his God.
He sees, and shrinks; but if he look again,
Lo, beauty springing from the breast of pain!—
He marks the sisters on the painful shores,
And even a fool is silent and adores.
When Sister Leopoldina first saw that slip of paper, she said to Mother Marianne, “Why, it’s beautiful! It’s lovely, isn’t it?”
But Marianne said to Leopoldina, “We are not the ones to be flattered.” And she told Leopoldina to look outside on the lawn at girls with clean clothes and freshly dressed bandages, who were lame and crippled from leprosy, but joyfully playing croquet on a lawn created just for them.
Then Mother Marianne said, “There is beauty in the least beautiful of things.”
Here were young girls who were suffering from a debilitating diseases, causing scars on their skin and disappearing body parts, separated from families most of them would never see again. And yet, they laughed and played and loved. Indeed, there is beauty in the least beautiful of things.
May we remember when we serve others that we are not the ones to be flattered. Rather, we join with God as co-creators of beauty in the lives of those around us and our own as well—for when we create beauty for others, beauty is being created for us as we do it.
Our Kahu (Pastor) offers a weekly message in church most Sundays during the year. Click HERE to see a video of a recent message from Sunday morning. You may see the Koloa Union Church YouTube channel to see many of his past messages and subscribe in order be notified when a new message is posted. Please share these videos with friends and invite them to church. Please feel free to “Like” any of the videos you see and share them on social media, such as Facebook, so that others will notice them.
“A Message from Kahu Alan Akana” is provided most weeks by the Kahu (Pastor) of Koloa Union Church, a congregation of the United Church of Christ (UCC), a member of the Kauai Association and Hawaii Conference.