Neil and I and my sister, Lyn and brother-in-law, Gary, celebrated our joint fortieth anniversaries by taking a long planned trip to Hawaii. We had a wonderful time in fantastic weather and went to sleep each night to the sound of the waves just beyond the dunes. We chose not to stay in hotels but in rented homes; one On Oahu and the other on Molokai. That choice allowed us a peek at daily life in Hawaii. Shopping in grocery stores, having sandwiches at neighborhood luncheonettes, buying chocolate glazed taro donuts in bakeries and getting stamps at the Post Office gave us a sense of sameness and difference that I am still pondering.
Hawaii is beautiful. Riots of flowers, sounds of exotic birds, mountains topped with mist and trade winds that keep the heat down give the visitor what seems like a taste of Paradise. My brother Bill and his spouse, also named Bill who have lived for years in Honolulu, showed us places of beauty but kept our feet on the ground. “This neighborhood,’ my brother pointed out to us, “Is largely native Hawaiian.” We saw small houses with peeling paint. He turned a corner and went up the hill another block and we saw large, well-kept homes. “The bankers, lawyers and doctors live here,” he said, “Around the corner from the poor.”
It is glorious to visit but challenging to keep one’s eyes open during the visit. You need to see incredible landscapes; to experience the power of the sea and to explore the reef with its beauty and fragility. You need to see exotic fish and giant swimming turtles. You need to hear the sound of the birds and the sound of voices singing old Hawaiian songs. You need to be captured by the mysticism of the Islands. So you also need to see the strength and dignity of people whose livelihood is waiting on tables or working on road crews. You need to see the children carrying backpacks to school to learn in both English and Hawaiian how to retain that dignity and Strength. The hope for the future is carried in the hearts of parents and grandparents as they send their children off to absorb the education that will bring them bright futures.
Neil and I had dinner with friends while we were there. I mentioned that Hawaii could be a model for the world in cherishing diversity. My friends said that it already is that model. Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipinos, Caucasians and native Hawaiians live and work together, happily intermarry and raise new generations of children in whose blood runs the wholeness of Hawaii and the reality of ‘Ohana,’ family.
May we all learn the lesson that Hawaii teaches the world. Despite challenges and hurt, there is a reality that is already present but only if we choose to embrace it. We are one family.
Rev. Adrianne Carr