I experienced Ohana in a very real way one morning in Kauai.
Part of Hawaiian culture, ohana means family (in an extended sense of the term, including blood-related, adoptive or intentional family). The concept emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another. (Wikipedia)
Right after I got sober, we went on vacation. It would be my first vacation without alcohol. Ahead of time, I had looked up meetings online and found one at a local park on the beach not far from our condo.
It was a 7am meeting, still dark when I bravely headed out alone. Not knowing where I was going, I trusted it would be there. It was. As I walked up, the sun was starting to come up. In the haze of predawn, I could see several very large, tattooed, Hawaiian men sitting around a picnic table. Afraid and intimidated at first, I continued to walk out toward the beach. I could see another table with what I recognized as familiar literature, coffee and donuts. Okay, I think I am in the right place.
Then, with much excitement, they all jumped up from the picnic table and shuffled over to me with outstretched hands. “Welcome, miss, please join us.” (in their inimitable Hawaiian accent) They shook my hand and wrapped their solid arms around me and I dove into safety.
They guided me to the coffee and donuts table and said to take a seat. One of them handed me a reading sheet and said, “You gunna read for us now.” I took it and after saying the serenity prayer together, I started to read the familiar How It Works.
Right there in a lawn chair with roosters cock-a-doodle-doo-ing and the brilliance of the sun rising over the ocean, I read out loud in a soft, choked-up voice with tears in my eyes. I felt safe and at home and part of the family. They smiled and giggled at me. We shared stories with each other, some of the men fresh out of prison on the island and early in recovery. Some had many years. I shared my story too, and at the end of the meeting they proudly announced, “You Ohana now. You jus’ gotta come back.”
Unlikely bunch loving one another like family.
Ohana. Intentionally chosen. An experience like no other.
A moment in time I will not soon forget.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”