On my recent trip to the Big Island I had a two-week chance to get to know the town of Hilo. On Wednesdays and Saturdays they have a fantastic Farmer’s Market; in tents across the street are other vendors selling various crafts. As I walked all around Hilo I was surprised to see a good number of people my own age (65 in January) many of whom looked like aging hippies straight out of the ‘60s: wild and straggly hair (now gone gray or white) wearing ‘60s multicolored clothing, sandals and sometimes no footwear at all! People in Hilo are so laidback that just being among them made me happy, made me laugh at the oddest moments, and made me wonder if maybe I had lost my marbles! While strolling around one day I saw a Buddhist monk walking along in his saffron and burgundy-colored robes; I thought of going up to him and saying “Hey, I’m a monk too!” but I thought my Hawaiian shirt, shorts and white haole legs might not have convinced him of my claim. On another day there was a Hare Krishna sitting on the ground in front of a store quietly chanting. There were also a few homeless, but they were nowhere near as aggressive as the homeless in Honolulu can be.
The architecture of Hilo is basically a plantation style, a style I find very comforting in its simplicity. Some of the storefronts are painted in vibrant contrasting colors which made me happy simply seeing them. Hilo is a town made for walking around. Every so often, however, I would feel the need to pull out of all of its activity and stimulation, at which point I would drive down Kamehameha Avenue just about a mile to the Queen Lili’uokalani Gardens. This is such a sweet spot of serenity right on the waters edge. It is laid out for meandering within with its little arched bridges, groves of bamboo, and carved Japanese stone lanterns. I picked out a favorite spot beneath a tree and each time I went there within seconds I felt centered and calm. One day while sitting there I began to think about the direction that my life has taken and about the possibility that in my future I may be living and ministering in the Hilo area.
What a great grace it is at nearly 65 to have a whole new venture dangling before me, replete with all within it that I do not yet know. It seems to me that the beginning of wisdom is to realize that we are ignorant of what we do not yet know; upon realizing that, however, two reactions can happen: Either the thought of dealing with all of that mystery discourages us and we turn away, or we can get excited, viewing all in the unknown as gifts waiting to be unwrapped. Sitting beneath my tree I became so excited by all of the possibilities that I jumped up and drove back into Hilo, parked, and plunged back into its manifold variety. The thought did occur to me once, however: Maybe I’m just too stupid to be afraid? Well… who cares; I’ve got gifts to unwrap in Hilo!!!