I was on my way into my local grocery store recently, (Smith’s). I think it was the day after Thanksgiving. There was a fellow there standing by the entrance dressed in bright colors. He was full of enthusiasm as he greeted all the shoppers. He was promoting the Salvation Army, Christmas, goodwill and the season’s joys to everybody. His cheerful attitude was contagious. I approached him with a question: If I put a dollar in his kettle was I guaranteed joy and a merry Christmas? He replied immediately: “Absolutely!”
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away across the wide Pacific Ocean, there is a group of little islands collectively known as Hawaii. It’s a different place, but it exists in our same time stream. It’s a location where I spent many years. I can recall a great many happy days living in that tropical paradise.
After all those years I suppose I must have absorbed some of the Hawaiian culture. Being constantly exposed to its lifestyle, you can’t help but be effected, even if just through osmosis.
There are two basic guiding principles of life in Hawaii. There is aloha, (love), and ohana, (family). You see aloha in people’s smiles, greetings, friendship and their genuine respect for others. Hawaiians often greet you as “brother” or “sister.” They also sometimes refer to you as “cousin.” Children in their society refer to adults as “uncle” or “auntie.” They show a great respect for their elderly. These are a people who view their fellow humans as one big family and treat them as such,
Regular everyday life to many of us as individuals is simple, straight-forward and if anything — boring. But when it comes to family, then life gets interesting. There’s communication, interaction, shared goals, competition, emotional expression, etc. Family life seems to set out purpose, meaning, direction and its success brings great rewards.
Outside and beyond the family there is the group. It can be the workplace, church, community center, city hall and such. This is where the real trouble in life seems to begin.
You’ve more than likely heard the saying: “All politics is local.” Just picture a city council meeting with a big squabble over who should benefit most from the loot, (tax dollars collected).
In our world, there is personal responsibility, there’s family pride and responsibility. But when it comes to the group; “Hey, what’s in it for me?”
Multiply this rowdy, self-conflicted, non-cohesive group by thousands of times over and you get regional, state, national and global government. Division, hatred and war: What a mess!
I’m aware that I’m rambling on here from Christmas, Hawaii, and to world political upheaval.
My point, though, is that people as individuals tend to be decent and well meaning. If you really get to know them, even though they are not family, you will likely see his or her unique qualities and find you have a lot in common. You may well find a friend. It’s the “walk a mile in my shoes” experience.
Of course they have political groups in Hawaii also, accompanied by their power struggles and conflicts. But this is looked at as more of a show that occurs once every four years. Politicians come out of the woodwork with their signs: “Hey, I’m your friend. I’m fighting for you. Vote for me”.
So let’s come back to the here and now. It’s still November, but Christmas has already started for me with that encounter at the grocery store entrance. There is the crispness in the air. There is wonder and excitement in the eyes of rosy cheeked children. There’s that happy Christmas music. You hear it every year, yet it’s new, special and meaningful again. During Christmas people actually display some degree of kindness. They even treat others with respect and consideration. It makes you happy and brings gladness to your heart. You have a reason to greet, care for and treat others as wonderful and special, almost as family members.
It feels a lot like aloha.
“Uncle Dan” O’Connor can be reached at email@example.com.