When most people were preparing for Thanksgiving, ordering their turkeys and making apple pies, one Tisbury School student was packing his bag for a trip half way around the world. My son, Cathal Robinson, 13, from Vineyard Haven had been presented the opportunity of a lifetime.
His aunt, Anne Robinson, is a senior environmental scientist working in the Marshall Islands with San Juan Construction Company of Colorado under a U.S. Army contract. His father, Charles Robinson, and grandmother, Patricia Robinson, had promised to visit Annie before her work contract expired. One week before Thanksgiving, Anne made a few calls and was able to sponsor Cathal so he could see what was happening in that remote part of the world.
Cathal packed shorts, tees, and flip-flops. He then filled his suitcase with baseball bats, gloves, balls and hats, all donated by Andrew Aliberti, president of the Martha’s Vineyard Little League. Cathal was heading to an island called Ennubirr, or Third Island, where sports equipment is a rarity, and one third of children under five suffer from vitamin deficiency and malnutrition.
The Marshall Islands is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean, just north of the equator. Geographically, the country is part of the larger island group of Micronesia, with the population of around 68,000 people spread out over 34 low-lying coral atolls, comprising 1,156 individual islands and islets.
There is much to see in the Marshalls. It is the largest shark sanctuary in the world, with 772,000 square miles of ocean, and hosts the M.I.T observation center which monitors debris in space. Cathal and his Dad did and saw many interesting things there, but the story he told me that resonated the most concerned the children of Third Island.
The Marshallese mentality is foremost one of sharing, at one with their island, the ocean, and each other. They share everything freely, like breathing.
When Cathal, his dad, aunt, and grandmother arrived, they went to the local school where they met with a young teacher from Pennsylvania. They joined her class of boys and girls of all ages. She was able to translate for them while the children asked their visitors questions and learned new words.
They could practice their beginner English. What is your name? My name is Cathal. What’s yours? My name is Uanea. How do I say, thank you very much, in Marshallese? Kommool tata.
Cathal told them he comes from another island called Martha’s Vineyard. He likes hockey. He is 13. They wanted to touch his freckles.
The children have little, but they share everything. There were two little girls, each with one shoe. The shoe-owning girl shared with her friend who had none. They shared — one each.
Remember that big old suitcase filled with baseball gear? Cathal asked if they had played baseball before. They had. The kids excitedly pointed to a box that had a bat and two gloves and two balls. But the teacher explained that because there wasn’t enough for all the children, the children rarely played. Can you imagine their delight when the teacher opened the suitcase?
There were 24 balls in there, enough for everyone. Enough gloves to make a team. Hats all around, from MV Sharks to Red Sox. The kids were delighted, not just with the gloves, but with the comfort of having enough for everyone. In the playground, a patchy field, they played ball.
Of all the things that could be learned from a trip so far from home, in a country so remote, so laden in history, the islanders ability to share stood out. And that is why I wanted to share this story with your readers. And pass on that the children of Third Island said, “Thank you MV Little League.”
Editor’s Note: You may have a travel story to tell. The MV Times will help you tell it. We welcome accounts of travel experiences – good ones, not so good, thrilling or confounding – from readers. There are three rules – the tale must be real, not fiction, 600 to 700 words will do just fine, and prose not poetry. Send photos too. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.