An Encounter

Working events with the general public is quite an interesting study in human behavior. We see some of the most amazing people, and very occasionally, some of the worst. It’s rarely ever boring! So with the holidays in full swing, I’d like to share a story with you. Which is, as you may have guessed, what I’m calling gestures of love. Theres a little bit of history to share first, so bear with me.

This tale is one of two halves of a family. A few years ago we were working an art fair, and a lovely lady came over with her daughters. Sweet, giggly little girls, clearly enjoying their time with mom. The mother picked up one after another of our pieces, showing them to the girls. Enthusiastic smiles and discussion ensued. After a bit I heard her say “THIS. I want THIS for my birthday! Tell dad this is the one” as she emphatically showed her daughters. And with a smile and a laugh, they were gone.

Many months later, I received a message from a particular husband. I love husband messages, they are always short, succinct, with the subtext of ‘Please Help Me’. This was no different. He was after a pipefish bracelet that his wife had fallen in love with. We arranged a pick up with him, we’ll call him Fred. Fred shows up and explains that his daughters had been on his case for MONTHS. ‘Remember to get the bracelet!’  ‘Mom wants that bracelet’  ‘DAD! its getting late, go buy the bracelet!’ and on and on. (aaawwww!)

I handed him the wrapped box which he opened to see what he’d purchased. He was delighted, and went on his way. I checked in on him a few weeks later, and he said “The bracelet fits perfectly and she loves it! So I’m kind of a minor hero now.”


pipefish on model
pipefish heads
pipefish closeup

Hana Hou

Hana hou in Hawaii means one more time! Fast forward a half a year or so. We were at a large show in Hawaii this year and i was delighted to find that the lady in front of me with her young girls turn out to be Fred’s family. The same ones who had come in before. She explained how she loved the bracelet, but that her husband, in an effort to do something superlative, went and purchased the gold version when she really wears silver more often so she doesn’t get to wear it as often as she’d like. Then they went around the booth much like last time, with the mother pointing out various things for the daughters to remember. And sure enough, many months after that, I received an email from Fred, requesting octopus earrings. (We conferred and agreed the silver was a better option this time) Much the same as last time, we met with him to give him the earrings.

Fred turns up in military fatigues. Delighted with the earrings, he said she kept saying she didn’t want anything, and she would be ‘mad’ that he spent this much on her. He clearly cares deeply that she’s happy. He’s a big strong guy, not loud, and quite thoughtful. (and from just the surface glance I had, seem just the kind of guy you’d want to be protecting our rights and our country.) We chatted a bit, and he told me how he “made” his men do a hike up near Kaena Point, how they bitterly complained at the remoteness of the hike, but how they all quickly recanted when they witnessed the view. He talked of surfing, how much they enjoyed the ocean here, and how he and his family had just fallen in love with Hawaii. He was very sad he had to leave for his next post in a few months.


pipefish on model

Ho’omaika’i (appreciation)

As I reflected on this lovely and warm family, the two halves of the story fell into place. A husband that doesn’t have to buy gold or presents but does because he wants to show his wife how much he loves and appreciates her. He’s the guy who’s young daughters love him and have the kind of relationship that allows them to ‘nag’ him. And the kind of leader that guides his men to see things they hadn’t understood before – not related to their work, but important in a much greater sense. A lovely wife that enables all of this to happen (and who knows, may have a thriving career too) moving the family every three years, taking it all in stride, and together, they’ve managed to bring up some truly sweet, well balanced, happy young girls. Making this work well takes daily effort, and good teamwork. Color me impressed.

Now this is not me blowing sunshine at some ‘forgotten heroes’, or being melodramatic in a cue-the-music type scenario. Its just that the everyday labors we do for each other are ‘trivial’ and mundane, but ultimately, they are *everything*. Gestures of love. Its so easy to forget to be grateful for those who are easily taken for granted. The unexpected gift, the extra special version of something rather than the one you requested. These little gestures show appreciation in subtle and memorable ways.

I was about to publish this blog when I received a delighted, happy email from Fred’s wife. With beautiful smiling photos! and a note saying how much she loved the earrings. Which of course just made my whole week. But also solidified my thinking – a thoughtful husband shows his love, creating happiness in his wonderful wife, who in turn passes the happiness on to me. She certainly didn’t have to. Thoughtful and happy people make everyone around them happy. What could make for a better Holiday Season?!

So I mused, imagine if we all did something really thoughtful for someone else this holiday. Even if you don’t know them. Imagine the chain reaction of smiles you can generate! Truly the meaning of ‘aloha, and a wonderful way to pass the holiday season. And a final note, we see a lot of military families in Hawaii. Getting to meet so many men and women who serve our country, and to witness their values and character is a privilege. We salute all of you who serve, both for your service and dedication, but also for setting great examples on how to be a good humans!