Friday, April 25, 2008

The spirit of aloha

Part of the inspiration for this blog was the desire to share good news, you know stuff to balance out the regular news, all the crap that we hear on a daily basis that makes us cynical and embarrassed to be a part of the human race.

Even if you have never been to Hawaii, you have probably heard somebody somewhere talk about the "spirit of aloha." This is the spirit of generosity and welcoming that the Hawaiian people are known for around the world. This is also something that it is easy to be cynical about. There are a lot of stories out there about people who have had bad experiences in Hawaii, or perhaps your own experiences (in Hawaii or elsewhere) have led you to believe that this just doesn't exist, that it's an urban legend like that guy in Nigeria who just needs someone to help him transfer all that money! Won't someone help this poor guy out?? Okay, I guess that's not technically an urban legend, but you know what I mean.

Anyway... in that vein I wanted to share with you some of the things that I have experienced since moving to Hawaii 6 1/2 years ago that help me keep faith in humanity.

1) (A little background): My husband and I bought a house that is just about as far away from any other place on the island as you can be. You want to go to Honolulu? 45 minutes, minimum. You want to go to Haleiwa, on Oahu's beautiful north shore? 45 minutes. You want to go to Pearl Harbor? 1 hour. This makes for a long, albeit beautiful, drive to and from work. We lived here for about 2 months before we bought our house and were able to move in. Until then, we were relying on the kindness of relatives with a new baby (seriously new, like he was born while were living with them). So, while they were as accommodating as they could be, after a while, we had to GET OUT! After that, we bounced around between military facilities and a "B&B" which hadn't been cleaned in who knows how long, was full of roaches, and was next door to a dog pen. We weren't really located anywhere where the air could move at all, but when it did, all it did was waft in dog poo. We were miserable. All of our free time had been spent house hunting, and when you call home and people ask, "How's Hawaii??" nobody wants to hear you whine about how hard it is living in paradise! So, not only are you unable to vent, but you can't garner any sympathy if you do!

When we finally found a permanent residence, it was about 3 months before we were able to receive our household goods. We lived on an air mattress and 2 borrowed camp chairs for 3 months. The previous owners were kind enough to lend us a little TV, but since we didn't have cable, I can tell you a lot more about how ants go about attacking and dismembering termites, injured cockroaches, or dead centipedes than I can about anything that was in the fall lineup in 2001.

(The good part of the story!) One night on his way home from work, my husband stopped at a local restaurant to see what they had. It was late, he hadn't eaten all day, the cupboards were pretty bare at home, and all he had was his checkbook. He stopped in, looked at the menu, asked if they accepted checks, and when the lady behind the counter said no, he said, "Ok, thanks!" (my husband is nothing if not bafflingly friendly) and turned around and walked out. (Now, at this point, we were living uncomfortably in the middle of nowhere, getting on each other's last nerves, and I was afraid that the one thing in Hawaii that I might not be able to deal with was The Bug Situation, so...things were tense.) As he was almost to his car, a little girl ran out of the restaurant and said, "Wait! My grandma says you need to eat. Come back inside!" This woman loaded my husband up with about 5 pounds of food and sent him on his way. That sort of kindness has been extended to us over and over again, and it never ceases to amaze me...(and it always makes me cry).

2) Right about the time we moved out here, laser hair removal was becoming the big thing. I am a pretty furry gal, and I thought this would be the best thing ever. (It was ok. Perhaps more on that another day.) Sometime between my initial consultation and either my first or second treatment, we had to put one of our two Basset hounds to sleep. This was incredibly difficult, and to this day I have doubts about what we did and didn't do. (Perhaps more about this another day as well.) I think I had said something at the consultation about having to take my dog to the vet, and on a follow-up phone call or on one of my visits, someone had asked me if she was ok, and, of course, she wasn't. After my next treatment, I was at the front desk, making my payment and I commented on the beautiful flower arrangement that had been delivered. As I headed out to my car, the receptionist said, "Oh, wait, I'll walk you out." It's all of about 4 steps from the front desk to the door, and I thought that was a little weird, but ok, whatever. She grabbed the flowers off the front desk and headed toward the door. "These are for you." It was a sympathy arrangement from the staff. It was totally unexpected and, of course, it made me cry.

3) My first job out here was as a receptionist. In addition to the basic phone/mail duties, I would occasionally help out 2 of the other girls in the office whenever they were overwhelmed. Their work was very seasonal, and when they were busy, they were SWAMPED. During the absolute peak of the season, one of them went on vacation for 2 weeks, and the other one quit. On the same day. Guess who had a new job title? I knew a little bit but not nearly enough to be proficient about what these girls did, and I was FREAKING OUT. Our work was not only seasonal but very minute-to-minute, lots of putting out fires and dealing with government officials, which is always fun. They did have the decency to send emails out to all of our vendors letting them know that they were out of the office or had quit, so at least I didn't have to do that. One of our vendors called as soon as he saw the email and asked if there was anything he could do to help-send somebody over to answer phones? Bring me food? Anything?? This was not some vendor trying to earn points and ensure future service opportunities; he was in, he was our guy, he didn't have to worry about job security. This was a guy who, as a result of the service he provided, was pretty well entrenched in our chaos and genuinely felt my pain. I thought this was one of the sweetest things anybody could have done. I knew that he was frazzled and doing all he could to keep his business running smoothly, and yet he sounded so worried about me that I felt bad for making him worry! (And, I'm sure, at some point, this has made me cry.)

Another vendor called up and asked me if I knew what I needed to do regarding his services, and I didn't really have a clue. There was a lot of government clearances and other nonsense that had to be done on our end before he could step in to do his part. He had the utmost patience and walked me through everything that had to be done and gave me the time line on which it needed to be done. I realize that this probably had more to do with self-preservation than altruism; if I didn't get my stuff right, his stuff definitely wouldn't be right, and then there would have been BIG problems, but he could have just said, "Hey, she's got a boss. He can help her figure out what to do," and, really, it would have all been on me when everything went to hell in a hand basket. So for his help and patience I am also incredibly grateful.

This all happened within the first 9 months of our moving to Hawaii. These are all little things, but the spirit behind them is what makes them amazing. Who has restored your faith in humanity lately?

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