In October of 2007 I stayed by myself on Kauaʻi. Each day I got in the car and just drove and drove all over and around the Garden Isle. During the two weeks there I went to the Waimea Canyon four times, as stunned by its beauty on each visit as I was at the first sight of it! Because my income is so limited at home here in Rincon I often shop at Walmart. I know all of the arguments and gripes about Walmart but the fact is that I just don’t have the money to go elsewhere. So it was natural for me to occasionally make a trip to the Walmart on Kauaʻi.
Because I am a Pastor, if I am dealing with someone whose mood is dark or sad I try to lighten our interchange with some casual humor, sometimes saying to the cashier at the register here at home, “You’re going to take my money, aren’t you?” Quite often, through the use of some light humor the other person’s mood will change. So on one of my trips to the Kauaʻi Walmart the cashier I went to seemed to be a humorless little woman who, in fact, never even looked up at me the whole time we went through our transaction. When she handed me my receipt was the first time we met eye to eye. So I said to her sincerely, “Thank you, and please have a nice day.” I meant it. And she knew it. I swear I’ve never seen a face so instantly transformed as when that smile spread across her face! Her eyes even glistened when she said, “Thank you for that.”
It was clear to me that her disconnectedness at the register was a way of protecting her heart. No doubt about it, relationships can be tough. Relationships can be likened to a stone whereby our imperfections are continually ground away, be they relationships in our ʻOhana or with someone in Walmart. And that grinding can hurt! Life is continually trying to get us to wake up, to grow up, and yet we often fight its demands upon us! We, or some of us at least, would rather we didn’t have to bother with other people and their demands upon us. The fact is that our relationships with others give us the opportunity to know who we truly are, which is often not who we think we are. As St Basil has stated, “We can hardly give evidence of our compassion and love if we cut ourselves off from each other.”
So far as I can see from out here on the East coast, Hawaiʻi’s values all seem to be rooted in relationships… to others, to the land, to God. As my woman cashier in Kauaʻi showed me, it is possible to live in paradise and yet be so unhappy that one closes down and shuts out others. How simple an act of respect can sometimes be! A “thank you”, holding a door, saying to someone, “Please, have a nice day.” Aloha it seems to me, is more than a lei, more than a word; it is a way of thinking, a way of relating to others… it is a life!