Ating Kabuhayan

Make your individual selves “whole” again.

The Rev. John A.H. Tomoso†

I just returned from a family vacation to the “Twin Cities” of Minneapolis and St. Paul in the state of Minnesota. It is where my wife Susan is from and where I went to college. I love everything about these cities and late summertime is a very pleasant season to visit. As a large metropolitan area of over two million people, the Twin Cities are replete with areas where folk from all over the state and the Upper Midwest (traditionally called The Great Northwest) come to enjoy the environment, the scenes, the emotional and sensate realities and each other. Cities are places where people gather. The Twin Cities are great gathering places. Don’t you wonder as to why people gather as they do?

The annual Maui Fair, now in it’s 97th year, gives us the perfect venue to gather together.

The Minnesota State Fair takes place the last two weeks in August. It is a wonderful, even breathtaking affair. In my humble opinion, it is the best of all State Fairs! So needless to say, it was crowded and the traffic, vehicular, bicycle and foot, was horrendous. Yet there was a certain beauty in all of this; busy traffic of folk going to places to meet, to gather, to get together. In fact, the Minnesota State Fair now has the moniker The Great Minnesota Get Together attached to all its advertising and marketing. And, wow, is it ever a Get Together.

On opening day when we attended, a crowd of over 135,000 broke an attendance record. Once there, at the expansive yet well laid out Fairgrounds, one sees a massive and veritable sea of people. Such a gathering of all sorts of people conjured up a plethora of emotions and thoughts within me as I made my way through the crowds. My people watching skills had a workout. All manner and color of folk; all manner of sights and smells, of feelings and touch, of emotional rush came at me with an intensity akin to plunging into a cold pool of water on a hot day. I sweated the whole time I was there and not because of the temperature. In fact, it was a pleasant—and somewhat balmy, with bright sunshine—72 degrees!

The Minnesota State Fair is a gathering place; a gathering place of cultural, historic and political significance. When people gather, many things happen; many things take place; many hopes, dreams and aspirations are experienced and accomplished. So, what about the Maui Fair, formerly and affectionately known as the The Maui County Fair? It too is a gathering place whose significance grows the older it gets. It is a gathering place that conjures up what living on Maui is all about. It kindles and rejuvenates hopes, dreams and aspirations within the diverse, multi-cultural milieu that is our community and lived experience. Come to think of it, when I was at the Minnesota State Fair, I was immersed in a lived experience of folk who really looked and felt like you and I. They even walked like us. One really walks at the Minnesota State Fair. But we walk at the Maui Fair too. To gather, one must walk. No matter how far or near, one has to walk to gather.

The Minnesota State Fair now has the moniker “The Great Minnesota Get Together” attached to all its advertising and marketing. And, wow, is it ever a get together.

In gathering together as people, we make our individual selves whole. In gathering together we understand how living together, as individuals, families, groups, neighborhoods defines what living is all about. I can’t imagine living alone. So, to get your fix on loneliness and being out of touch, why not gather; gather and come together to become the person you’ve always wanted to be? Both of these Fairs (which really can’t be compared as they are so very different) are gathering affairs, gathering places.

There is a hymn by Pastoral Musician Marty Haugen that is an appropriate capstone to my sense of gathering. It is titled Gather Us In and its lyrics speaks to me, even as I write about gathering at such a secular affair called a Fair (no pun intended):

Gather us in, the rich and the haughty. Gather us in, the proud and the strong. Give us a heart so meek and so lowly. Give us the courage to enter the song…

So, we can gather, all of us. We can gather whoever we are. We can gather with hearts full of emotions and hopes with dreams and aspirations. We can gather, sometimes with loss and without enough. And we can gather, and sometimes we have to call up our courage to enter into the embrace of others with whom we live! So, go ahead and gather as you want to, as you need. See you at the fair!

Rev. John A. Hau’oli Tomoso† is a Social Worker and Episcopal Priest. He is a Priest Associate at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Wailuku and an on-call Chaplain at Maui Memorial Medical Center. Tomoso was graduated from St. Anthony Jr./Sr. High School, the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota (Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sociology) and Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (Masters of Social Work). In 2008, he retired from the civil service as the Maui County Executive on Aging. In March 2019, Tomoso retired as the Executive Director of the non-profit Tri-Isle Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc., after a social work career that spanned 43 years of practice. His wife Susan recently retired as a 7th grade Language Arts Teacher at Maui Waena Intermediate School.