On our October 2010 trip to Waikīkī Mom and I each had separate suites at the Ilikai side-by-side, each suite consisting of a bedroom area, a living area, a kitchen, and a bathroom. It was already evening when we arrived and after depositing Mom in her suite I went into mine, turned off all of the lights and went out to sit in the dark on my lānai. From my darkened third floor perch I could observe everyone in the plaza below me without them even knowing that I was watching! On a bench there was a couple writhing in a passionate embrace. In a chair on the edges of the plaza was a man slumped over in a saddening embodiment of depression. Another couple argued as they passed through the space below. I could watch it all and yet to them I was invisible. The thought gave me a guilty thrill of pleasure!
Walking the next day I observed another instance of someone being invisible to others. An old, disheveled, slightly crazed homeless woman sat in the grass against a fence and shrieked God-only-knows-what at any passersby. Apparently she was in this spot every morning and had become such an ordinary part of the scenery that those at whom she yelled neither flinched nor acknowledged her presence! To them she was invisible. There are ways other than homelessness or darkness of night for being invisible, sometimes of our own doing and sometimes on the part of others. We sometimes make others invisible by refusing to speak to them or to even acknowledge their presence. We sometimes make ourselves invisible by withdrawing from people when we are down. In our obnoxiousness people sometimes learn to ignore us because, “Well, that’s just the way he is, don’t pay any attention to him.”
In children’s stories there is sometimes a protagonist who through being invisible can delightfully wreck havoc in the lives of others without them even knowing who is doing it! And yet inevitably the invisible one yearns to be seen by others! If we are honest with ourselves, don’t we all yearn for that? I believe that through Aloha we can let others know that they are seen, that they are valued, that we find it good that they live. Such simple things as the bestowing of a lei around someone’s neck expresses more than just courtesy. It is a gesture of respect, it is a recognition of the person’s having been seen. On the second night of our visit before going out onto my lānai to watch the people down below I turned on all of the lights in my suite so that light would pour out onto the lanai and enable others to see me seeing them…my Aloha to them!