The Goddess Speaks
Darkness holds a silent kind of aloha
WHEN people talk about the aloha spirit, they usually mean things like letting people merge on the freeway, giving directions to strangers and taking up collections for the hungry, the helpless and the victims of happenstance. Yet, for some of us, aloha isn't just about events in the light of day, but about concern for others in the shadows of the night.
My husband and I walk together every morning at a time that can only be described as oh-dark-early. In the hours before sunrise, strange people venture out in our neighborhood, and what isn't obvious anywhere in the ragtag world of the night risers of Ewa Beach is aloha spirit.
We see a man with dark sunglasses who must view the world always through curtains of black. We encounter a serious couple with two scary-looking Doberman pinschers who proceed rapidly in single file. The pinscher people march resolutely and don't speak to each other, or anyone else. We pass a woman who carries her CD player held out carefully in front of her like a platter of rare crystal, and the couple with three moth-eaten and elderly golden retrievers.
The nighttime wanderers include a small man with a big stick, and a big man with no stick. While we walk briskly, the African-American soldier jogs by, huffing along and glancing neither left nor right. We also pass two bus stops, with groups waiting for the predawn pick-up. The bus people carry lots of bags, wear black and chat among themselves in languages other than English. On our route, we step over snails, and encounter cats and rats and the occasional falling star.
In among these denizens of the dark, it's hard to imagine the existence of the aloha spirit, but I have learned otherwise.
FOR A WHILE, my husband's work hours changed and I was forced to either give up walking, or walk alone. I need to exercise, so I braved the dark, clutching my keys like a weapon, heart pounding. The first day, I made the two miles without getting mugged. Hurrah. The next day, another uneventful but nervous walk. Again, I was grateful to make it safely home. On the third day, something very strange happened. The ghouls of my neighborhood, the mind-your-own-business-in-the-dark-people with their dogs and bags and sunglasses and iPods, stopped walking by me and just stopped instead.
And asked me -- where was my walking partner and was he OK? Was I OK? Even the bus groupies interrupted their conversations to ask after my walking partner. Their concern let me know that though they respected privacy, they noticed when I was alone. They were looking out for me. I was part of a special kind of ohana.
Here in Hawaii, we have friends in unexpected places, and the aloha spirit informs the hearts and spirits of those who rise before dawn. I am profoundly grateful to live among them.
Cris Rathyen teaches English at Moanalua High School.
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