By Andrew Lukac
A moment of clarity on the Wiliwilinui Ridge trail
I was on the Wiliwilinui Ridge trail a few weeks before lockdown in March 2020. It was a beautiful day, and there were hardly any other hikers. When I got to the top, I realized why I was in Hawai‘i, and it wasn't all work. It all sunk in, as I had a moment of clarity.
I had been working on this big project every weekend from January through August 2019, and working on my MSc since May 2019, so there really wasn't a great deal of time to get out and about, and see the island's natural beauty!
All the work—mental and physical—paid off when I looked across O‘ahu from the top. I felt I was on God's own mountain. I still remember the climb, and my friend captured me in this photo on the way down, as the sun was setting. It had rained a little the day before, so the ground was muddy. I grabbed the rope and descended.
Then COVID happened, and that was that.
The lockdown and its fallout were an opportunity to pause and think about how it was affecting others. I am lucky that I've been able to keep my job, and look after my family. My “hardship” is that my family is not here on O‘ahu, but in Germany. I've been away from them for two and a half years, and last saw them 15 months ago, due to the COVID restrictions.
Even one day away is a day too many, but many of us make these sacrifices. That's what being a parent is all about.
I am European by birth and heritage, but that doesn't mean I couldn't make a small impact here in Hawai‘i. I heard stories of resilience: single mothers taking jobs to support their children while paying mortgages. These were not living-wage jobs either. I was always amazed at how some baristas in coffee shops had two jobs, a car payment, a rent payment and studying. The will to succeed against the odds and their energy made me rethink certain beliefs, and this led me to contribute to the UH Mānoa Fund for Excellence.
Our legacy for those who follow
My alma mater is University College London in the U.K., where I'm originally from, but this year I wanted my tax dollars to help the local community. I remember my parents making the sacrifice to send me to private schools and placing an emphasis on education. Knowledge turns to intelligence, which eventually becomes wisdom. Education is a lifelong process, and to achieve wisdom we must start with the foundations of knowledge. So if we are to leave a legacy, we must educate those who come after us.
I will be leaving Hawai‘i in a few weeks, as my job is taking me back to Germany and my family. I'm grateful that I can go back and be a father and husband again.
I leave with the hope that even if I improved the life of one student, that student will make a difference to the world around us.
Hope springs eternal and stretches beyond the physical, and just as they can never take away what's in my head, they can never stop me from hoping either!
Students deserve this hope.
As for 2020? I stretch out my arm, and where it stops is a metaphor for what I can physically do. I can't change the political climate, or COVID, or the lockdown, but I can do my part in advancing hope for the next generation of students. The world is theirs. Carpe Diem!