Some days my Creator/God/Universe seems to speak louder than others. Today has been one of those days. I finished my last law school examination for the semester this morning. I knew exactly where I wanted to be. Kaka’ako. Just last week, I was in Kaka’ako for a Spring Symposium on Homelessness and Policy Change, hosted by the John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Partnership for Social Justice. I was invited to speak and share my candid experiences on trying to assist my father, and the project that I have been working on. It is such a peculiar feeling driving up to a location and passing rows and rows of tents filled with children and families without homes, and then parking in front of them to walk over to an auditorium so I can speak about their social condition.
It was a privilege to be able to share our story, their story. At the same time, I knew I had to drive away that night and I wouldn’t be able to reach out to anyone. So, I’m glad that I was able to spend some time getting to know the families in Kaka’ako again.
On the drive to Kaka’ako, I thought about Mother’s Day… my mother. And I know that this blog has largely been focused on my father, but I continued to think about the woman who carried me into this world. Although I don’t have a relationship with my mother today, I know that we both love each other. I follow her advice to “do what makes me happy,” and hear her words of support and encouragement. Wherever she is today, I know that she is proud of me and, “as long as you’re happy, I am happy.”
But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about her smile, the shape of her eyes when she laughs, the way our noses crinkle the same way. My Creator/God/Universe must have known that a part of me was longing for my mother this morning because I felt her energy through a woman named “Nani.”
Nani has been sober for a number of years and is currently “in transition,” as she applies for jobs and continues her education/training for better employment opportunities. She is the “Aunty of Kaka’ako” from what I gathered. Humble, focused, caring, and somewhat of a watchdog for the kids in the area. With three children of her own, she prioritizes their education and makes damn sure that the other kids go to school, too. But she also recognizes that she can’t be a parent to all of them, and at some point, the parents need to step up and take responsibility.
My mother was actually the opposite of Nani, but Nani said something to me that really resonated with me this morning. “You are doing what your parents never did for you. You took a different path and you are prioritizing your kids. That’s what I am doing and I am not going to be here forever. By forgiving your parents and me forgiving mine, we make things pono.”
Life is about making things “pono.” I completely agree with her philosophy and approach in life. Nani’s focus and determination is infectious… even to me. She is a great example of someone who is on the streets due to economic circumstances, and intends to get a better paying job so that she can have a better living situation. In her own words, she said that Kaka’ako is a village. People do help each other out, try to maintain respect and civility, but things can get out of line just like anywhere else. She tries really hard to “keep the peace” and help the children and teenagers, so they don’t run astray. I admire her. And I know I will be seeing more of her when I go back later this week.
As I drove back home, I thought about the interconnectedness of life again. This continuous theme of cause and effect — the people in my life and how our paths cross in ways that magnifies/crystallizes the experience of living. Maybe it’s because I seek it out. Call it an encampment, an eye-sore, a public nuisance, a village, or whatever you want… but, I know that Aunty Nani sees it as family. They’re all families trying to survive.
Amazingly, I checked my inbox right before I started writing this post and received an e-mail from an ongoing supporter of my Kickstarter project. Over the past few months we exchanged a number of e-mails and he shared a bit of his own personal story and dedication for social change. I was touched when he shared that one of his daughters wanted to get a tattoo of the Hawaiian word for family (‘ohana) as a way to remember her ailing grandfather, who has since passed away. It turns out that three of his six daughters decided to get the same tattoo to honor him by.
Again… the interconnectedness and theme of family is so strong here. In the e-mail, he mentioned the part about “Lilo explaining to Stitch that ‘ohana means family and although theirs may be tiny and broken, it is still good.” This resonates with me for a number of reasons. First, because I felt the same way as a child. Second, because that quote was referenced during my Kickstarter campaign when ‘Ohana Health Plan helped to support my project. Life is so intriguing when you look for the connections and today’s experiences continue to reaffirm my path.
Thanks for reading… Looking forward to sharing more as I continue the journey.