|Gardens at Waianae Comprehensive, a healing center with the Hawaiian touch found in the essence of love|
Michelle Perez is Hawaiian and then some. The "then some" are those mixes with various cultural groups that make up most of the Hawaiian population in modern times. Her philosophy represents the best of Hawaiian ethics, which means to look at all people with the eyes of ohana, or family.
Perez was speaking of a Chinese woman, 80 years old, that she and her husband, Joe, have befriended on many occasions. The elderly Chinese woman has a raft of children, all adults and living on their own and a mentally challenged daughter who is deaf and unable to live independently. Her days are spent caring for the daughter, as she does her household tasks in a townhouse in a multicultural setting.
The Chinese woman, whom we will call Linn, for the purpose of this discussion, occasionally borrows money from the Perez family in small amounts for laundry or small necessities. She looks at the Valentine's Day gifts other women receive and asks for just a few flowers. She asks for things with the wide-eyed innocence one might expect of a youngster, with a bit of the manipulation that goes with having little and never having much.
The Perez family understands that. So despite Linn's idiosyncracies they look past those faults to the old woman's needs and her limitations. And for those theists who recognize the message in all of this, they look at Linn and others like her through the eyes of God, but in an ethical fashion that proves a lesson for us all.
Poverty is no sin to the Joe and Michelle Perez. They understand poor. They have lived with it. And within their vision is the knowledge that Christ said caring for the poor is the key to heaven. Do they read this in the Bible and then speak of their beliefs in some boastful way? Not at all. It comes from the blissful, innocent way many islanders look at others, as they recognize the fusion of cultures in Hawaii and understand the source of each person's status. It is not an intellectual thing but an emotional and spiritual one instead.
It is a lesson on any day, how Christ's message of love is translated into action, teaching the neighbors, you and me, and all they touch, what caring for others is all about.