Late Friday afternoon I made a spicy ginger carrot soup…a great immune booster and soul lifter, when you’ve had about four days of nonstop, flooding rains! The golden orange soup transforms a clammy blue afternoon. I planned to visit my mom for dinner and this soup is just the thing to pep you up with its healthy lacing of chopped ginger and garlic.
Across the street, my neighbor’s house was dark, even with the overhead light on. His wife died a week ago, and I worry about him. So I prepared a bowl of soup, with a luscious dollop of sour cream and chopped green onions in pretty contrast to the orange soup. It cheered me up immensely, and so I thought it might cheer him.
I don’t really know my neighbor very well. It is more of a “Hey, there!” sort of relationship. I felt a little shy, but I was pulled by the piercing need to lighten the lonely scene across the way. My neighbor met me at the door. I could tell he was glad of the company and the simple soup and wheat nut bread.
On the way back, I thought to myself how good this is– that his natural Japanese courtesy would have him return the bowl, and, we would become a little more connected.
(Sure enough, the next morning, a polite knock at the door, and there’s his smiling face, a packet of coconut cookies and a bowl, now full of impeccably peeled and sliced oranges. I thanked him and shared the recipe for the soup, so simple and good.
I should have thanked him for more than oranges. He was weaving us into a new relationship. And teaching me that a bowl of soup can make our community stronger.)
Then I realized the girl downstairs had recently been laid up with a car accident, and probably wasn’t cooking much. So I made up another bowl and took it down stairs.
What a blessing to watch her face light up with pleasure! It was as much about the friendship as the food. And the reminder that she was not alone, that she was thought about, cared for, by her neighbors.
The next night, I slipped into bed just before midnight, which is late for me. A close friend called about another, who was injured and unable to get to the hospital. The friend lives alone; a hard worker, self-employed, and has no insurance, so she would not call an ambulance.
Together, we were able to get her to the Emergency Room at KVMH. We wound up spending the night there, while kind doctors reduced her pain to manageable levels. My other friend and I wrestled with staying awake and not falling out of the chairs until at 4 am our friend was comfortable and safe to go home…
We drove home under a half moon, Venus and Jupiter looming large against the inky sky, the car skimming over the empty roads. We were silent, listening to a Keola Beamer CD, and grateful the night had turned out so well for our friend. Tired and quiet, we watched the greenish dawn creep in along the horizon, as hills, trees, and fields slowly emerged from darkness into the familiar beauty of the Kalaheo hillsides.
I was exhausted. At midlife, I no longer bounce back from all-nighters the way you do in college. But this, I thought gratefully….is also the power of community at work….how it pulls us together, no matter how loosely connected we are, and how it energizes us.
There are many who are unaffiliated…who have lost partners or spouses, or whose children have moved far away. There are so many with no insurance, except each other. There is a community of women who care for each other and reach out and hold on to each other when overwhelming challenges confront us.
When the need arises, we feel the power of those interconnections and how they hold things together and make us strong enough to do what must be done. While we can do none of these things alone, when we work together, a wisdom and strength wiser and older than any of us emerges, and gives us the power to do the right thing for the greater good of the whole.
We may feel weak at the edges of our society, our community, but we are strong at the center, and we can pull in to safety all those in need, when we work together.
This is the ultimate luxury…to have the time to care for our community, the way we would like to be cared for, ourselves.
In living on Kaua’i, there is limitless power arising from the earth that supports us. It is in the potent messages of life emerging from the living plants, in the abundant beauty of clouds that can lift our heads even in our darkest moments. The beauty of Kaua’i is in her people and in the Aloha that makes us one community.
Ua mau ka ea I ka aina I ka pono.
(needs Hawaiian punctuation verified.)