On one of my trips to Hawaiʻi I had to de-plane at LAX for a 2-hour layover and I observed a youngish businesswoman with her child coloring in a book on the floor next to her. The woman was yelling on her phone at god-only-knows-who, enraged and no holds barred! Her daughter held up a page from her coloring book saying “Mommy, I made it for you.” The businesswoman grabbed the paper, balled it up and threw it, continuing her venting. I’ll never forget the look on that little girl’s face! Have you ever had done something for someone thinking it was good, only to have the other person let you know that your gift was neither needed nor wanted? Aside from the hurt there is also the sudden stabbing realization that not only your offering but also you are not needed… a terrible feeling of alone-ness, alienation, of not mattering to someone.
When I think about such painfulness in Life I cannot help but follow my thoughts to the homeless of Hawaiʻi. I don’t know why their situation often attracts my thoughts to them, but it does. For a Hawaiian with Hawaiʻi’s emphasis on ʻOhana, on family, of belonging to others of that ʻOhana… what could be worse than not belonging? This reality is, I think, what gives such horrible acuteness to homelessness in Hawaiʻi. To live in a culture where one’s relatives are not numbered in the dozens but in the hundreds and because of one’s behavior or choices to not belong… must be a unique form of estrangement.
Those within Hawaiʻi’s tents are someone’s Aunties, Uncles, Moms, Dads, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters… all of which titles are based in relationship to others. Do Hawaiʻi’s homeless lose their titles when they move into the tent? Do they lose their sense of themselves? As I boarded my plane at LAX the businesswoman was reading a magazine and the little girl was still coloring. I wonder if the mother even knows what she did to her daughter?