By S. Alicia Damien Lau
Before the written word, people of all cultures used stories to help the younger generation communicate cultural traditions, values, and beliefs and to explain practices or natural phenomena. In Hawaii, you always hear people say, “Let’s talk story.”
In April 2022, I received a request from Jo Corona, who had learned about Kalaupapa and wanted to come interview patients, staff, etc., about Kalaupapa. She is from StoryCorps and arrived with her “tech” person, Jef DeHaven. StoryCorps’ mission “is to preserve and share humanity’s stories to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” The technique used is through “talking story” or tapping a dialogue.
StoryCorps website also said, “We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations.” Since S. Barbara Jean and I have lots of stories, they asked to interview us along with several patients, their families and others.
Arriving at noon on June 19, they set up their “studio” in the convent; our dialogue was the first. Some talking points answered questions such as describing our journey to Kalaupapa, memories of patients that stand out, and our work in the settlement. After almost an hour and a half, more questions arose from our conversations. But I had to attend to one of the patients.
Since they will be here until Thursday, we can show them Kalaupapa and Kalawao. It is crucial that they have the time to “feel” Kalaupapa, to understand the place, the people, and the history of St. Damien and St. Marianne. These interviews and others which have been done will be archived at the Library of Congress. We feel that the history of the Sisters of St. Francis, Mother Marianne, Father Damien and the 8000 patients will live on in the stories that have been told.