After a long year of pandemic-induced “sheltering in place,” my husband, Ken, and I boarded an airplane a few days ago and flew here to Maui, Hawaii.
We’d had plans to come over for a two-week vacation in April of 2020, but the pandemic dramatically squelched those plans. So, we reserved the same two weeks for April 2021, thinking surely by that time COVID-19 restrictions would not be an issue. Little did any of us know…
But here we are. Wearing a mask while walking on the beach clad only a bathing suit feels pretty odd, but I’m happy to say that people we’ve encountered here on the island have been very respectful of the current Maui mandates, with the general sense being, “Yeah, okay, this is weird, but hey, we’re just happy to be here.”
The feeling that “we’re all in this together” has been more predominant here than I’ve experienced many other places. The aloha spirit prevails, despite social restrictions, and people seem even more willing than usual to share a smile, even if it can only be conveyed through our eyes. It just feels so wonderful to connect with strangers again, after purposefully self-isolating for so many months. To feel the oneness, the common spirit we all share is such a precious gift.
One moment that especially exemplified this occurred just this morning as Ken and I were heading out for our morning beach walk. We noticed, from our fifth-floor balcony, a small gathering of folks, mostly men in matching jackets, standing on the beach a short distance from our condo. We were curious who they were and why they were gathered in this particular spot in their unique regalia. But more than that, I felt some sort of energetic pull. What was that all about? We decided to head that way to check it out.
As we drew closer, the feeling grew stronger, as did our visual acuity – we saw that all the guys’ jackets said “Mana Souls” on the back. They each also had very distinctive insignias of a skull adorned with native Hawaiian headdress.
A woman, about my age-ish, was standing near the outside of the circle of about thirty or so people. I asked her what “Mana Souls” was, and she replied, “It’s a biker club here on Maui. We just lost one of our guys to cancer – we’re here for a memorial.” She then put her hand on my shoulder, smiled, looked right into my eyes, and said, “It’s about to start.” She gave a slight squeeze to my shoulder, then turned and joined the group.
Ken and I turned and began to walk in the other direction along the beach. As we walked, I said to Ken, “She touched my shoulder. I can’t believe how wonderful it felt to have a stranger touch my shoulder!” I paused for a moment and cried.
I was touched. Literally and figuratively. And with her touch came a realization of how deeply starved I felt for that simplest form of human connection – the hand of a stranger placed momentarily on my shoulder as an extension of her verbal communication. A direct energetic exchange, in the briefest of instants, conveyed so much. I felt her love, her sadness, her reverence. Mostly, I felt our shared humanity. Our shared Divinity. For a brief moment, I paused to feel this precious connection – the kind I often used to take for granted.
I realized how quickly I’ve become accustomed to a New Normal , with its built-in “no touch,” “stranger = danger” pandemic mindset. And I am so very, very grateful that in that moment her natural instinct prevailed, and she reached out and touched me.
Such a simple exchange. Such a profound experience.
After our walk, I googled “Mana Souls” and learned they are a fun-loving bikers club dedicated to performing service projects on the island. Their motto: “We do what we can for whoever needs our help.” How wonderful is that?
I trust and pray we’ll come around to a time when the kind of spontaneous human connection I experienced this morning will once again prevail. I trust our instinctive loving nature, rather than the fear-based mandates that now discourage this hugely important human instinct, will win the day. For now, this woman’s touch was a light of hope.