By now, it is hard not to have heard about the passing of former Representative Mele Carroll. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HSA) wrote a beautiful obituary for her in today’s print edition. Mele’s passing is a huge loss for her family and friends, but also a great loss to people of faith statewide. You can read (or watch) any number of them:
I feel that there is nothing that I can add that hasn’t already been said. I never knew her personally, and cannot even say that had the honor to meet her. Like many of you, I have only admired her work from afar.
However, HSA eloquently and appropriately honed in on a theme that describes the legacy that she has left behind:
(Senator Kalani) English said Carroll endured tough times, and at one point in her life was even living on the beach. She told English, “I built myself up from there and went from homeless to having a family, to building everything, to be a representative.” English said Carroll “often took up the issues of the underdogs. She took the most remote communities and said, ‘What are your issues? Let me help you.'”
Mele was always a champion for the underdog – the impoverished, the destitute and the downtrodden.
It was her ability to empathize with the underdog that reinforced her faith. Perhaps it was the other way around. True to her faith, she took up issues beyond what was sexy and what would get her thirty seconds on the evening news and chose to quietly work in the background.
Unbeknownst to many, she also took up the cause of people of faith. Those that she saw as brothers and sisters who were being trampled on, humiliated and persecuted publicly. She was not blind to this.
Her passing is not our loss to mourn alone but to mourn in part of a greater whole, a greater island ohana. It is my hope that the Legislature will go beyond the rhetoric, the speeches and the evening news spots to honor her memory. Go beyond the ceremonial naming of a building or a street after her. Go beyond the lowering of the flags or declaring a day of remembrance. But come together as a whole to make a lasting impact and to serve one of the many underdogs that she championed – and to lift them up in a manner befitting of the faith that Mele practiced, in hopes that we may all practice (rather than preach) it with the same devotion and passion that Mele so quietly and effectively did.