Why It’s Worth It

Contributor: Matthew Braica, Ulu Pono Teens Director

“It’s an interesting thing it is, this thing called life. I’ve seen a vast ocean of perspectives on this topic and a ceaseless spinning wheel of theory as how to live it. For some, money and comfort is the way to go. How many things can one acquire? For others, it’s adventure. How many things can one experience? Family, friends, beauty, there are countless things one may deam worthy of using their precious lives in order to pursue. As for myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that my days are only worthy of being invested in the lives of others for the true benefit of others.

During World War II, a pilot by the name of Vivian Rosewarne wrote a heartfelt letter to his mother, in the event of his death. Pilot Rosewarne was assigned on a mission that he knew could potentially be his very last, and it was this acknowledgment that caused him to confess the words that Seventy seven years later have ingrained themselves deep within the very fabric of my soul. “The universe is so vast and so ageless that the life of one man can only be justified by the measure of his sacrifice.” I’ve realized that it was sacrifice which was missing from my life. It never crossed my mind that sacrifice was the key to truly unlocking true fulfilment, joy, and love. While growing up in California I was constantly bombarded with the questions of what am I going to do and be with my life? Many believe that it is far easier to live in the U.S due to the many blessings we have, but I still found it to be incredibly difficult. So many options, so many different paths, so many choices that at a young age, I had no idea how to answer. All I knew was that I loved surfing more than most things in life, and that I also wanted to use that passion and love to make a true impact in the lives of others. It was this desire and passion that ultimately led me on the journey of a lifetime and ultimately to Surfing the Nations.

I’ve observed that children are similar to cake. In order to have a delicious beautiful cake, a recipe is to be followed. Now let’s say that you are making a cake for whatever reason and following this delicious recipe. What were to happen if you left out an ingredient? The cake would undoubtedly be different than what the recipe says the cake would be like if you followed the recipe. It is the same with children becoming adults, if along the journey of life there are a few ingredients missing, the child will be lacking something as an adult, therefore not being completeled like the recipe claims. As a full time staff member at Surfing the Nations it is my role to coordinate outreaches for the teens that provide some of these missing ingredients through the programs we facilitate. Every thursday and saturday we provide an environment that is full of love, acceptance, joy, laughter, adventure, inspiration, fun, our attention and time. Through the activities we do and through our presence in their lives we are able to help bring proper nutrients in order that they grow strong.

Being involved in the lives of these amazing children weekly has been one of the highlights of my life to date. My heart is filled with pure joy as I see them pour out of their houses shouting, “MATTHEW!!!! ARE WE GOING TO STN?!?!?!” It’s incredible to see them grow and get bigger. I first arrived at STN in 2014 and many of the same kids are still attending our programs and it’s amazing to see the change in their lives. This program has made me experience the closest thing to being a father. Last week I was able to take them to the skate park and watch them tear it up. A boy named Jordan was dropping in on some steep bowls and exploding the transitions with some huge slides and I found myself filled with pure delight in this boy. I was so happy to just see him doing something he loved and doing it well. Another boy named Desmond would yell my name and make sure I never took my eyes off of him as he dropped in on some steep sections and pretend to surf them. I could just see his desire to be seen and acknowledged, to be loved by my attention, and being able to do that for just one person makes it all worth it. I believe volunteering for STN embodies sacrifice. As I’ve been here there are many comforts and desires of my life i’ve had to lay down. The beautiful thing though is that we don’t know the future, and if I hadn’t taken the step to be here I’d never have received the beauty that only comes with sacrifice and taking the step into the unknown. Putting these kids first above myself is something that isn’t easy, but just like a farmer plants seeds in a field knowing that the harvest won’t come tomorrow but years down the road, so I see that the seeds planted in these kids lives may not become visible immediately, but I see them blooming in the future. I see that the future of these amazing children of wahiawa is so incredibly bright. They’re a field that can bring so much to the world if only someone would take the time to work the soil and cultivate the plants, water them when the sun is out, and pull the weeds that come. These wahiawa gems have so much potential and they just need someone there to help shine them. Knowing that makes it all worth it.”

-Matthew Braica


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