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We can all learn lesson from broken paddle

May 18, 2017 - 12:05am

The king of Hawaii stopped paddling and looked up at the pale blue sky. He glanced at his other sleek boats around him.

He was in his royal canoe offshore of Puna, on a mission of war. He didn’t know it was 1783, all he knew was that a group of villagers were onshore and he had to charge in and make his power known.

The giant king started paddling toward shore, his royal oarsman trying to keep up with the massive strokes. The canoe hit the beach sliding up onto the sand, the king jumped out and started running toward the terrified villagers.

They saw it was Kamehameha and knew his awesome power, so they ran to save their lives. Women, children and old men fled into the ohia trees.

Three brave fishermen, holding only their canoe paddles, turned to face the charging king. They had to save their women and children from his attack.

Their hearts were pounding, mere mortals facing who they believed was a god. They saw him charging, his dark scowling face, his arms thick as coconut trees. On he came.

All was lost, but suddenly the great king fell, his foot stuck in the lava.

With all the courage within him, one old man ran up to the god-king and swung his paddle down splintering it on his head, then ran for his life.

To save his wife and child, he had dared to strike a god. The fear and nightmares the spirit-ridden man must have had for years.

Another scuffle happened with the oarsman, but the great one being struck by a commoner was the big news that day.

Time moved along and Kamehameha The Great went on to unite all the islands into one kingdom.

When the seas had calmed and the islands were one peaceful ohana, the old king sitting in his hale remembered that day on the beach in Puna when an old fisherman broke a paddle over his head. It still hurt his pride.

He had to find that fisherman and make a grand statement, to punish or forgive.

He traveled from his pili grass hale in Kona to Puna to find the old man who had dared to give him a good paddling. All his chiefs believing he was going to punish him.

They would soon find out why he was called The Great.

When his entourage made it to the other side of the island, the guilty fisherman was brought before the king. The old fisherman stood cowering in his ti-leaf sandals, sure he was headed for the imu pit.

As the alii stood before him, all his chiefs shouted “Stone him!” Kamehameha lifted his hand for silence and to the astonishment of all, forgave him and created The Law of the Splintered Paddle, protecting his people.

He wanted to show that being great means showing forgiveness.

And how much is our life like this story of Old Hawaii? Many of us have someone who did us wrong, broke a paddle over our head so to speak, or our heart, our feelings, or our wallet. Someone owes you money or an apology and you’re not going budge one inch.

That grudge sticks to you like an opihi on a rock, you won’t let it go. And just like the petty chiefs of the king, your friends pressure you to keep punishing the wrong-doer.

How great would it be to forgive that person, actually, it would make you as great as a king.

Dennis Gregory is a teacher, artist and writer who mixes truth, humor and aloha in his columns. He can be reached at

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