On my first visit to Hawaiʻi I remember being astonished by the sight of homeless people in Kapiʻolani Park. The presence around them of shopping carts filled with sundry items, suitcases by “their” tree and makeshift tents made it clear that they were not simply visiting the park for the day but that they actually lived in it. I suppose that I was naïve in thinking that in Paradise all is Paradise-like! Some of the homeless are the worst possible advocates for their way of life with extreme dirtiness, the irresponsible way in which they treat their environment (which actually is not “theirs” but the public’s) and their general disregard for the social rules by which the rest of us live. So it is easy for us to look at them and assume that they deserve the misery of their choices.
How about the choices that many of us who are not homeless make in our lives? Have you ever arrived at a point in your life where each day seems to be just one misery after another? Have you ever considered the possibility that the mediocrity of your life is of your own making? When we say “yes” although our mind is saying “no” then we betray our heart. When we make a promise and fail to keep it then we betray our spiritual integrity. When we are unfaithful in any area of our life then we leave our heart homeless. If this is the general way in which we operate in life is it any mystery that our life feels like death by a thousand paper-cuts? The real misery in most of our lives is not some single cataclysmic event but the myriad small betrayals that we engage in minute by minute.
So when we speak about how terrible our life is perhaps we ought to place the blame not on others or circumstances but a bit closer to home? The fact is that we will begin to grow when we stop whining about our life and address the ways in which we make that life a misery for ourselves. In the end the homelessness of our own heart needs to be addressed before we take moral umbrage with the homelessness of others. And when we actually do begin to grow into some degree of spiritual maturity we will come to see that it is not our job to judge the choices that others make but to help them try to come into a better life by whatever means are available to us. One thing that Hawaiʻi has taught me is that there is no “us” and “them” but only one ʻohana which lives by the kuleana of Aloha for all… no matter what the choices of others might be.