The Hawaiian Welcome Sign
By Father Pat Killilea, St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa
Some of you may be familiar with the story about the little old lady, a pious and very innocent little old lady, who found a bumper sticker at a local church bazaar that said, “Honk if you love Jesus.” Being very religious, she immediately put it on her car bumper and set out for home. On the way, she stopped at a red light and became totally absorbed in thought of how good the Lord is. So she didn’t notice the light change to green until the motorist behind her began to honk his horn and she was so happy that he honked his horn for Jesus.
Actually, several motorists were now honking their horns for Jesus which made her so very, very happy that she leaned out the window and waved and honked her horn. Then she noticed that one motorist was waving with only one finger (naughty fellow). So she asked her grandson who was in the back seat what this sign meant and he said that it was a Hawaiian welcome sign. Now she figured it was the shaka sign she had heard about, so she gave the motorist a welcome sign in return. Then she noticed a few people getting out of their cars and beginning to walk toward her, but just at that moment the light turned green again. So she gave them one last wave with the Hawaiian welcome sign and drove off. She was such a pious old lady.
Now here in Kalaupapa township, it is customary to give a welcoming sign to those we meet on the road or the street, be that a five finger wave or the shaka. After all, welcoming is part of our local culture and we do this whether we last saw this person last week, two days ago, or earlier this day. We even do it to our animals, like my oldest cat, Maka Reilly, who at this very moment is asleep at my feet.
Of course, welcoming often demands more than a friendly wave, and we here in Kalaupapa had the opportunity to show such a welcome some weeks ago when Bishop Larry Silva and his pilgrims found themselves stranded at our airport. They had come to visit this land of St. Damien and St. Marianne and had done so under skies which had watered the settlement for most of the day. Indeed, it had rained “cats and dogs” from morning to evening. Then when they had gathered at the airport, expecting to leave for Oahu, the dark clouds closed in and the planes were unable to land. So eventually it was determined by our venerable administrator, Kenneth, that we should feed our stranded guests and put them up for the night. Keahi, one of our great tour guides cooked a hearty meal for them and also entertained them with song. At some time that night they then retired in the Visitors’ Quarters.
The next morning we saw them off at Terminal 1. There were hugs and kisses all around as usual and then the final goodbye waves… and the shaka of course.