Keiki- Ka lei ha`ule `ole, he keiki
Hawaiian Proverb meaning A child is a lei never cast aside.
We all woke up this morning to yet another tragedy. Another day of reflection and prayer (however you define it). Another attempt to explain the unexplainable to our kids. And my mind keeps going back to Hawaii and Uncle Jack.
Before I introduce you to Uncle Jack, I have a confession to make: I recently made my third trip to Hawaii and before this I just didn’t get it. I mean yes, it’s gorgeous, and yes, it’s tropical but aren’t there closer and/or cheaper tropical paradises out there? Why do people get so excited about Hawaii?
Now I get it.
I’ve been home for a few weeks now and have had time to reflect on what makes Hawaii so special.
It’s the people. Nah, that’s too trite. Lots of places have people whose daily way of life can feel spiritually uplifting. Thailand comes to mind. It’s the family ethos. Again, too simplistic. Many Latin American and Asian cultures share the reverence for family.
It’s both of those, but it’s more.
Meet Uncle Jack
“Uncle” Jack Stone is the cultural advisor from the Sheraton Maui. We Traveling Moms had the pleasure of dining with Jack on our last night in Maui.
Due to Jack’s guidance in addition to the lei-making and hula lessons you expect the Sheraton offers coconut husking, taro pounding and other activities of past daily life. Activities more reminiscent of Jamestown than Maragaritaville. They even lend out ukuleles so you can learn before deciding if you want to buy one.
A story that Uncle Jack didn’t tell best explains what I’m talking about. Last year a guest tragically died (of natural causes) while at the resort. Uncle Jack generously- and without prompting- spent time with the family trying to help them cope. He communicated with them the Hawaiian reverence for Kupuna- ancestors- and was so instrumental to the family’s grieving process that they returned the next year to honor their father and to thank Uncle Jack in person.
“Uncle Jack” isn’t just Uncle Jack
The thing that strikes me, though, is that Uncle Jack was just one of the abundantly generous people I met on Maui. Everywhere I turned “real” Hawaii touched me- and not just in a transactional capacity. No group of people be that “on” all the time. The attitude of aloha– meaning “with love” as well as hello and good-bye- is simply something lived and breathed.
“Auntie” Maka at the Westin Ka’anapali explained to us how she had to educate mainland HR folks who were concerned that staff members referred to her as “Auntie”. She told them simply “then they won’t know what to call me!” because every elder watches every kid so they all are genuinely honorary Aunties and Uncles.
The video above features Fred Torres, cultural advisor at the Kaanapali Alii.. Yes, that’s the third cultural advisor I’ve mentioned in three paragraphs. I can do that because the resorts on Ka’anapali each have a cultural advisor. I’ve seen resorts from time to time have a shout-out to locals but nowhere in 25 years of travel have I encountered no fewer than five cultural advisors in a single week.
We all need Hawaii to remind us that beauty exists in the world when it’s hard to find at home.
I’m not a Pollyanna: I understand that Hawaii isn’t perfect. But in a world of quicksand Hawaii stands firm as not only a location but an ideal.
We all need a world full of Uncle Jacks.
We all need Hawaii now more than ever.
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