Once upon a time (that’s how you know the story of a hero is beginning) there was a man assigned to a submarine at Pearl Harbor.
“The first time I came here, to Maui,” he said, was 1965. He visited Lahaina during the annual Whaling Spree, struck up a friendship with a couple he met there, and started visiting them regularly.
A few years later, in 1968, his friends bought a lot in not-yet-much developed South Maui, just mauka of Kalama Park. That year, the young man re-enlisted, choosing to stay under the sea on the submarine.
It is never a surprise to see Mike Trotto in Kalama Park. It’s his nearby neighborhood park, and one of the places he goes to serve the South Maui community.
Clues from the story so far: Neatness and friendly relationships are essential in the close quarters of a submarine. A person might learn there, and apply the lessons on dry land.
Once upon an earlier time, our hero—his name, by the way, is Mike Trotto—went to high school.
“I don’t remember much,” he said, “it was a very long time ago. But, I do remember this one day… everyone was rushing out to lunch, and I saw this lump of paper on the ground. I picked it up and threw it away.”
A teacher who saw this got all excited. “I was thinking what’s going on with this guy? It was just a piece of paper. I always think of that. It stuck with me,” he said. “People do appreciate it when you do something.”
Clues from this chapter: Obviously, even if a person is very young, he can learn that it feels good to do good things, and that it makes others feel good, too.
By 1969, Trotto had bought a lot near his friends, and near Kalama Park.
“The parks didn’t have names back then,” he recalled. “Even the Kama‘ole beaches didn’t have signs or names.”
His lot sat empty, always being the place he might one day live, but that was a dream, really.
Then, in 1973, Trotto left the Navy and took a job at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. That kept him near enough to still visit Maui and his friends who lived in Kīhei. A few years later, a job opened up at Maui Electric, and Trotto went from his third-shift job at Pearl to the airport to an interview. Long story short, from 1977 until 2001, when he retired, he worked at MECO.
Oh, and he did build a house on that lot in Kīhei.
More clues: Sometimes, dreams come true, even if you have to work hard for years to make it happen.
Looking around Kalama Park as he spoke, Trotto said, “This has been my neighborhood all these years—more than 30 years. All these things,” waving at the playground and skate park, “just popped up.”
In fact, very little of what is appreciated in Kalama Park and many other places in Kīhei “popped up” without Trotto’s help. He worked to get the boat ramp built, and never stopped picking up lumps of paper and expressing appreciation of others who did the same.
So, in October 2004, when then-Community Prosecutor Jerrie Shepherd suggested the formation of the Kalama Park Action Team (KPAT) to take back what had become a dangerous strip of South Maui coast, Trotto was among the first to raise his hand. There were shrubs to clear, trees to trim, drug dealers to be made uncomfortable and gangs to be made unwelcome. Before long, working with the county, and with other volunteers, KPAT and veteran Kīhei volunteer Trotto achieved the dream of reclaiming Kalama Park.
“The enemy,” he said, looking down from the bridge by the skate park and pointing to a spray paint can. No one knows how many times every surface in the park has been spoiled with graffiti, but no one doubts that Trotto will lend a hand painting over it.
“It’s a great concept,” he said, “to leave a place better than you found it.”
Those are words to live by.
Get a clue. Find the ways that you can help maintain and improve your neighborhood.