Today, November 10, 2023 (the date of this writing), I received a lovely if unexpected birthday card from Hawaii. It was from a member of the Honolulu Lions Club and indeed a past District Governor (PDG) of District 50, which includes all the Lions Clubs and members in the 50th State. My 84th birthday happened four days ago, on November 6th, and it’s the tradition of Hawaii’s “Mother Club” to send birthday cards to all its members. Inside was a neatly folded, new $20 bill. Tears came to my eyes. I had joined this club some 25 years ago and remained a loyal member during my remaining eight years in Honolulu. I remember the White Cane Walks through the City to honor the blind and cleaning donated eyeglasses at Ho’o Pono, a local nonprofit supporting the blind and the sight-impaired. These recycled spectacles were then sent to sister clubs in developing countries for distribution to poor individuals for whom the prescriptions were a close fit. I also remember our periodic service projects, usually involving cleaning up some area of town. We also gave annual cash prizes for the best drawings by school kids...
For me, being a member of this historic club was an honor. An early member, a Japanese-American back in the 1920s, prevailed upon the international Lion leadership to open the membership to non-whites. Ours was the first such club to be admitted, and for those of you who don’t know it, Hawaii’s population was and remains about 80% non-white. In other words, Hawaii is currently the only U.S. state whose racial make-up parallels that of the world as a whole. Indeed, I was one of a handful of Ha’oles, white people, in the club. (The term comes, by the way, from the reaction of the native Hawaiians when they first encountered the sailors, their first Caucasians, on Captain Cooke’s ship back in the late 18th century. The former thought these pale figures were ghosts. The Hawaiian word literally means without (ole) the breath of life (ha).
Within a few years of my joining, I was voted in for a term as club president, “prexy” in the local lingo. And when my term was up, I became “PP Reynold,” the first abbreviation standing for “past president.” Oh, and as to the Reynold, locals—i.e., non-Haoles—have a penchant for using formal first names. You never hear Jim or Jimmy, only James; the same goes for, say, Sandra; never Sandy. So I was always Reynold, pronounced “Rey-no” by the locals, influenced no doubt by the vowel-rich, consonant-poor Hawaiian language. By the way, there are relatively few pure Polynesian Hawaiians left in the Islands, although a good number of part-Hawaiians. The largest constituent ethnic group in the state, at about 30%, are the Japanese Americans. Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, and even Mexican Americans comprise the rest, with, as I said, 19-20% Caucasians. The Aloha Spirit is commercially touted by the Hawaiian Visitors Bureau, but in my 17 years there, I found it really did exist. Nowadays I attend monthly club meetings online. And today’s birthday-card surprise proves to me that the Aloha Spirit lives on. Mahalo, thank you, Honolulu Lions for this Aloha.