“Mom, you know what I love about living in Hawaii?”
“What is that?” I inquired, anxiously awaiting my 12-year old daughter’s response.
“When you meet new people here, they just give you a hug and it is like we have known them forever.”
My 7-year-old quickly chimed in, “Yeah, like tonight when we met our new friends, they were so nice and I felt like they were really happy to be with us.”
Life through a child’s untainted eyes is a beautiful thing. I smiled proudly knowing that they are gaining wisdom from these islands that so many in this world overlook.
“I love that about living here too.” I told them.
Hawaiian people have a treasure they hold dearly and for good reason. There is so much we can all learn from their wisdom and it is for this reason I have decided to share a few of the ‘secrets’ my family has come to know that make this land so sacred.
Everyone ‘talks story’ in Hawaii. Upon first arriving on the island, I often found myself explaining to local friends that I was running late because I ended up ‘talking story’ with a neighbor I had not seen in a while, a grocery store employee who is excited for the outcome of the store’s remodel, or a woman in the parking lot, who just wanted to get to know me a bit. It seems that people in Hawaii feel a connection with one another and, if there is no connection, they will find a way to make one. People don’t look past one another. Whether friends or strangers, they look one another in the eye and greet each other with a friendly ‘Aloha.’ It is a mutual understanding that time spent connecting is time well-spent, so I no longer apologize for running late because all people here run on ‘Hawaiian time’ and that is perfectly okay.
Prior to moving to the island, it seemed no matter where I traveled on the mainland, my experience was the same. People either riding my tail in a frustrated effort to get somewhere or I was riding the tails of other drivers going 10 miles under the speed limit because I had somewhere to be. These scenarios rarely happen on the Big Island. Most drive the speed limit or slightly under and plenty of space between cars is the norm. There is so much beauty to see. Why should anyone be in a hurry to go anywhere? I adore taking in the sights of the lush greenery and the water as I travel to my next destination. I am allowed to do this now because other drivers are doing the same thing. People don’t ride your tail and the slowest drivers generally recognize they are holding others up and courteously pull aside to allow traffic to pass. I drive like a ‘little old lady’ now and it is a wonderful thing.
The phrase “No shirt, No shoes, No service” is not seen anywhere on the Big Island. Life is truly a beach in Hawaii and people spend a lot of time in the water. Men with no shirts, women in swim suits, and people wearing no shoes are often seen in gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Tank tops, sun-dresses, worn t-shirts, Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and ‘slippas’ (the term used for flip-flops) are the standard attire. Half the women have permanently ditched their bras and they rarely wear makeup. What is the point in makeup when it is going to melt off or be washed off at the beach anyway? My clothing expense has dropped to zero. My family got rid of most of our clothes before we arrived and we still brought way too much. We have each worn the same three or four outfits since we got here and (Gasp!) nobody cares.
Millionaire or on welfare. It doesn’t matter on the Big Island. All people interact together and treat one another the same. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t have a clue if the man in line next to me was the founder of Google or the homeless person living on the beach. Unless I have spent a lot of time getting to know someone, people don’t even ask me what ‘I do’ for a living. Nobody cares. There is little sign of social class in Hawaii. People don’t discuss their jobs, their homes, or their belongings. Instead, they discuss life, love, and what they like to do for fun.
When I first arrived in Hawaii, I was surprised when I sometimes received an odd look as I extended my hand out to greet new friends. I have since learned that a handshake is a sure sign a person does not live here. The handshake originated as a gesture of peace by demonstrating that the hand holds no weapon. Since Hawaiian culture is based on peace, they do not utilize this gesture. Instead, all new friends are greeted with a welcoming hug and a kiss on the cheek. I am still getting accustomed to this and often find myself extending my hand without thinking, but am beginning to welcome the hugs and kisses and am excited for the day this gesture becomes my new reflex.
Since the day my family left our old life behind in search of a new and better life in Hawaii, we have already learned so much and feel gratitude each day for our experiences here. While the land is the most breathtaking I have ever seen, it is the people who make it truly beautiful. Whether one lives here or not, I believe the world would be a much better place if all humans absorbed some of the sacred knowledge that the people of Hawaii hold so dearly. Live, laugh, love, play. That is what the human experience is about.