Author’s Note: I wrote and published this back in 2011 about a trip we took several years before that. Today the memory blessed me yet again so I updated the original post. Because in this moment is something that matters to me and maybe to you.
I once told Jon, “If hope has a color and a taste it is tangerine.” He smiled and said, “I’m glad that works for you, hon.” His voice was full of a quiet delight and understanding – he generous with both. I love that about him.
But there’s just something about the bright warmth of orange and the delicious sweetness of a tangerine. Especially one warmed by the sun and picked right off the tree.
That’s only happened to me once.
Several years ago, Jon took me to the island of Kauai. We were always up early (that is how Jon vacations) and one morning I saw a huge yellow sign advertising breakfast. We were hungry and didn’t notice where we were until we stepped inside. The bartender was friendly, but his eyebrows rose high on his forehead. Just like on TV, those guys know stuff.
The name in neon was, TomKats Bar. (It later became TomKats Bar & Grille, but is now closed.)
The waitress seated us on this great covered deck that was more outside than in, and where the floor was built to accommodate the trees and the roof was open around them to let the sun touch their leaves. She then told us what the special was and that she’d bring us each a free Bloody Mary ASAP. Now it was our eyebrows on the rise.We asked for any fresh juice they had instead.
Her smile was the for real thing – the kind that comes from the heart, stretches across the lips, and shines in the eyes.
When she put in our beverage order at the bar, we heard a booming voice say, “I told ya!” Yep. He knew. I laughed out loud. So did he.
She brought us guava juice and told us that it was on the house. As much as we could drink. Oh. My. Even now – years later, the memory of that liquid fruit causes my mouth to water.
There is very little on this earth as delicious as juice on that island.
As she walked away to place our order, we were joined by one of the resident tom cats. At first he rested on the table beside us, stretching now and then before he moved to the extra chair next to Jon. When the waitress brought our fresh our island-fresh guava juice, the waitress asked if Tom was bothering us. We told her we were enjoying his company. And from the sound of his internal rumble, he was just fine with us being there. Especially when he got to share Jon’s breakfast one bite at a time.
We sat next to a tree bearing small orange fruit that shimmered in the early morning sun. The moment felt perfect.
I decided Tom’s purring had as much to do with where he lived as with us. We were temporary snack providers. . .but that place on that island were his sparkling domain. We felt the same way. Although we’d been to Maui and Oahu, Kauai settled into our souls.
We visited back and forth with the server – we were her only customers. She shared her life with us. We learned that she was born on the island, went to the mainland for school, graduated, got a high-paying job in LA, tried to like it, and then she returned home – to the island where Aloha is a way of life. She taught us that the word means far more than hello and goodbye, but is breath, peace, life, kindness, friendship, a positive attitude,alert to the needs of others, and a deep connection the Creator and His Creation.
We learned that the old ones believe the word means “God in us.” Her words were full of gentleness and reverence.
When she brought us our bill, she told us her family was having get together on the beach later and we were invited to join them – to be part of the fellowship, food, and family.
With a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, I told her we were leaving for Minnesota in a few hours. She sensed my longing, smiled, reached over to the tree, picked two tangerines, and handed them to us with a tender, “Aloha.”
I’d heard the word coming and going during our stay, but this time the word came from her heart, and the “ha” part was carried on the gentle breeze of her breath. Like a blessing. And a gift.
Remembering these moments today. . .so many years between then and now. . .the lump is back in my throat and the tears in my eyes. Because deep in the meaning of true aloha is hope. The kind I feel because of the expectant confidence I have in Jesus – the God who is in me. (Colossians 1:27)
It felt like she left us with a God-sized blessing. Like this one. . .
Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We ate those tangerines just before we went to the airport. Sitting at the beach, pondering the power of God’s tender blessings to us while on Kauai; the people, especially her, the fruit, the ocean, the rainbows, the albatross, sea turtles, humpback whales, a dolphin nursery, and again – a waitress whose aloha lingers in our hearts. And a cat named Tom.
Aloha. . .
Graphics from Fotolia and Pixabay – Used with permission.