Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii


The Hawaiians, along with many other indigenous cultures claim that “family” is a very high value.   I believe that in every human heart and every culture there is a sense that family is to be the strongest of human bonds.  “Blood is thicker than water”, I can hear my mother and my grandmother’s voices chiming in together. While some families do not live up to the holy bond that I believe was intended for us, some families enjoy this bond fully.  While travelling to Molokai last January my husband and I had a 4-hour layover in Kahului Airport in Maui and enjoyed observing one such family.

There is only one flight into Kaunakakai Airport on the small “friendly island” of Molokai each day because not many folks visit Molokai. Short term rentals are limited and there are few touristy-resort type activities in the small town community on this central island of the Hawaiian chain. We were looking forward to the relaxed pace, the quiet and warmth of the island and the people.  We had friends who owned a condominium there who offered us a ten-day getaway in January when Northern California can be wet and dreary. Our relaxation began with a 6 hour wait in the Honolulu airport.

While patiently winding down, after a leisurely lunch in a sunny patio (lanai) type restaurant in the airport, I took several walking tours of the 29 or so gates in the Honolulu airport. I finally settled into a row of somewhat comfy black airport chairs set up facing each other, next to my catnapping honey, to await our soon departing flight.

A young family came tumbling into the seats across from us with two small blonde children, a boy and a girl who quickly frolicked up onto the small carpeted platform next to the large airport windows, to watch the planes preparing for takeoff.  Chattering in some European Language- Dutch? German? Mom brought out a “pad”….not an iPad, but a pad of paper and some colored pencils.  The children ignored it and babbled on to each other about the planes taking off.  She pointing, and he nodding as they playfully wrestled like 2 good natured puppies up there on that little carpeted platform waiting for a plane to Honolulu.  The mother and father chatted then he walked off to do some airport errand. 

The younger sister (by just a year or two) wrapped one arm around her brother’s neck and they tumbled to a laying down wrestle still giggling, but precariously close to the edge of the 3 foot drop off.  Mom got up, unwrapped the arm gently and redirected the little girl to the drawing pad.  Brother had a moment’s reprieve before little sister bound at him like a happy puppy wanting to lick another pup’s face or grab the tail in more playful tumbling.  Rather than snap at her, he looked to mom with a face that said, “Hey, can I get a little support here?”  Mom responded immediately, pulled out a story book and a couple of snacks out of the backpack and joined the children on the carpeted platform.  Wedging herself between them she engaged them in the story book and handed each a small wrapped snack that they energetically unwrapped and began chewing.  

The Papa returned, gave his wife a kiss on the forehead and a gentle touch to the head of each of his now quiet children.  Peace.

I wondered to myself how this may have gone had there been a “pad” with a screen.  There were no screens among these 4 family members.  They engaged in eye contact, conversation and tilted their heads toward each other.  Shortly down the row was a couple each engaged in his and her own screen and not a word passed between them since they settled into the black terminal seats—long before the blonde family arrived. Was there “peace” between them, I pondered.  I know that just because folks read things on their phones and children watch programs on screened pads they are not stunted or evil or even anti-social.  I do wonder, however what will become of the children and families who spend more time “plugged in” rather that engaged in conversation and learning to read social cues, make eye contact and allow the brain to develop in all those ways that are so vital for families to grow and become intimate and loving beings.

Is “social media” really all that social? Or is it just a pastime that keeps us isolated and more lonely than before we watched about  Suzy and Bob’s latest trip to Fiji or John’s newest promotion or the four friends that got together without you to see that movie that you were hoping to share with a friend.

Is the screen evil? No, of course not. Can it be a tool used for good?  Sure!  But what would your family be like if there were more real stories being read or told? Or more eye contact, fun wrestling, playing board games, hiking, talking together or enjoying a real walk to the park?  What might it be like if it was not WWII to wrestle the “screen” out of your 3-year old’s hands?  Or how might life unfold if there was no need to break apart the vicious wrestling of siblings who know nothing of social cues and are claiming the territory of the next hours’ “watching time”? 

Jesus cautions us to “guard our hearts and our minds”, “to think on things that are lovely and excellent” and to “love one another” deeply.  Each family needs to decide how they will handle the screen for the parents and the children.  What might it be like to have a bit more eye contact, voice to voice and heart to heart connection instead of “connecting” with a screen?

What creative ways can you think of to connect in person without plugging into to some device?

“Love One another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” John 13:34

Mark your calendar for my next Zoom conference Workshop, Tuesdays, May 28th- June 18th: Parenting for ReaLife   Check our details in Events!