The Rev. Paul Sutekichi Osumi wrote a short, inspirational column six days a week in The Honolulu Advertiser from 1957 to 1993 named Today’s Thought.
These 2- to 3-inch missives meant a lot to his thousands of readers. Many taped them on their desks, walls, refrigerators, mirrors, carried them in wallets or mailed them all over the world. Some called Osumi ’’Hawaii’s best-read author,” and others said the minister “had the biggest congregation in Hawaii.”
His short pieces also appeared in the Hawaii Hochi and the Fairbanks Daily News. Thousands wrote him letters of appreciation.
What I didn’t know is that he was practically abandoned by his parents, who named him Sutekichi, meaning “throwaway.” He was also interned in Gila, Ariz., during World War II.
Despite — or maybe because of this adversity — Osumi shared his philosophy of having a positive attitude for over 36 years in what was the most read column in the paper.
Osumi was born on June 15, 1905, in Hiroshima, the eighth child in the family. He took the name Paul at his baptism decades later.
His father came to Hawaii in 1913. When he was 14 in 1919, Osumi’s mother sent him here, too. He lived in Kaimuki, but his dad returned to Japan in 1920, and he never saw his parents again. Osumi stayed with an older brother who owned a Japanese restaurant in Aala.
Osumi enrolled at Mills Institute for Boys (now Mid-Pacific Institute). Despite English being a second language, “my father showed signs of being an excellent writer and speaker,” son Norman Osumi wrote in a recent book appropriately titled “Today’s Thought.”
“This would later help him to develop and deliver sermons during his ministries,” Norman Osumi believes.
He was an associate for the school newspaper and tied for first place in a scholarship essay contest, netting him $800, a huge sum back then.
Osumi graduated in 1926 and went to the University of Hawaii. He became a reporter for Ka Leo o Hawaii, the school newspaper. Following graduation in 1930, he married Janet Sadako Monden and went to the University of Southern California School of Theology, graduating in 1936.
Returning to Hawaii, they moved to Hilo, and Osumi became youth minister at the Church of the Holy Cross.
He was 36 when World War II began. Possibly due to a mix-up with another, or his being born in Japan, Osumi was arrested and interned “on suspicion of being an alien enemy.”
Norman Osumi believes the U.S. military worried that influential Japanese men could be a problem if Japan invaded Hawaii. They might side with the Japanese and lead a revolt, the government supposed.
He was sent to the Sand Island detention camp. “I cannot imagine how he felt — a Christian minister who did everything to help people in Hawaii and to live by America values — being treated like a criminal,” Norman Osumi wonders.
Eventually, Paul Osumi was sent to the Gila relocation camp in Arizona, where he became a youth minister at the Canal Christian Church there. His duties included hospital visits, Sunday school, prayer meetings, preaching, counseling and working with the youth of the camp.
While at Gila in 1944, Osumi contracted valley fever, caused by fungal growth in his lungs. He was sent to the camp clinic. His wife and two sons decided to move to the camp and nurse him back to health.
“Once we were at Gila, Father’s condition improved,” Norman Osumi says. “You could see the changes in his expression and the happiness in his face. His color brightened when we arrived.
“While in Gila my father wrote condensed sermons for young boys and girls joining the U.S. Army to take with them as they left the relocation camp for war in Europe.”
Forty of these were printed in a booklet called “God in the Desert” after the war ended.
“I am sure that everything that happened to him since the start of the war in 1941 impacted his thinking, but he must have put that in the past and looked to his future as a minister in order to better serve the community.”
In the beginning, several ministers from different faiths were asked to contribute to Today’s Thought, Osumi recalled. “I outlasted them all because I didn’t write about my own theology. I wrote about real life.”
By 1959, only Osumi was still writing the column, and he continued to 1993. He died in 1996 at age 90. Here are a few of his writings.
TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR A HAPPY MARRIAGE
1. Remember marriage is a 100-100 proposition. It’s not a 50-50.
2. Neglect the whole world rather than each other.
3. Never meet or part without an affectionate hug or kiss.
4. Each day, say at least one nice thing to each other.
5. Never go to bed angry. Settle all differences before the sun goes down.
6. Do not argue. Always talk things over.
7. Do not nag or engage in fault finding.
8. Never bring up mistakes of the past.
9. When you have made a mistake, say “I am sorry” and ask for forgiveness.
10. Never raise your voice or shout at each other unless the house is on fire.
Learn to Listen
A man in trouble said to his minister, “Thank you very much. You have helped me greatly.” Yet the minister had done nothing except to listen. If we are to do well in this world, we must learn to listen. In times of great stress, words are often futile. Often the only comfort and help we can give our friends in sorrow is to be silent and listen.
If you seek to find faults in others, you will not be disappointed. You are sure to find them. But if you go out to discover the good in men and women about you, you will find a host of heroes and saints live in your homes and shops and streets. Look for the best instead of the worst.
Resolutions for a Happy Life
No one will get out of this world alive. Therefore …
Thoughts to Live By
Life is what we make of it.
Life is 90 percent attitude: think positively.
You must have something to live for.
Life is a series of ups and downs.
Forget the past and face the future: live each day to the fullest.
Let us always love people, not things.
Your life is measured by what your life meant to others.
Learn to laugh and say kind things.
To be happy, be yourself.
You have only one body; that is irreplaceable.
There is only one race: the human race.
Resolve to maintain a reasonable sense of values
Take care of yourself. Good health is everyone’s major source of wealth. Without it, happiness is harder to attain and sometimes almost impossible.
Resolve to be cheerful and helpful. People will repay you in kind. Avoid angry, abrasive people. They are generally vengeful. Avoid zealots (fanatics, cranks, loners). They are generally humorless.
Resolve to listen more and talk less. No one ever learns anything by talking. Be chary (cautious) of giving advice. Wise men do not need it and fools will not heed it.
Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and wrong. Sometimes in life, you will be all of these.
Do not equate money with success. There are many successful moneymakers who are miserable failures as human beings. What counts most about success is how a person achieves it.