My Christmas miracle came a little early this year and it happened a long way from home.
I experienced the magic of the season last week while wandering around Waikiki on the second night of my Hawaiian vacation.
As I was walking down a street near my hotel, I could hear people singing and, since there are a lot of bars in the area, I incorrectly assumed that it was a bunch of drunks trying to show the world how much fun they were having.
But I quickly determined that these singers were very talented. I listened closer and I recognized the melody of the song they were performing, but I couldn’t make out the lyrics.
I was tempted to keep walking and just forget about it, something I do far too often.
But I wanted to know who these people were and what they were singing.
And since I was on vacation, I wanted to step out of myself a little bit and do something different.
I followed the voices to the backyard of a small housing complex and stood in an alleyway listening until I realized that these people were singing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah in what I assumed was the Hawaiian language.
It turned out that this was the Tongan Choir from nearby St. Augustine-by-the-sea.
I stood in that alley just listening until a young man saw me and invited me to go inside the courtyard.
Once inside another man offered me a chair so I could sit and listen to these beautiful voices perform a classic in a way that was entirely new to me.
The Weary World Rejoices
And even though I was alone and nearly 5,000 miles from home, I felt so peaceful and welcome in this strange location. It was almost as if these people were expecting me.
At the end of the rehearsal the singers all prayed in Hawaiian and I joined in at the end when they blessed themselves.
Then the singers began handing out box chicken dinners and insisted that I eat with them. By this time I was pretty much in shock at what was going on.
I'm sure a good number of these people work for the tourist industry in some capacity, as maids, perhaps, or as security guards, which means they make a lot less money than I do. But they still wanted to share their food with me.
I have no idea why these lovely, talented people were being so kind to me, a total stranger, but it's something I’ll never forget.
And it’s hard not to think about a certain couple that had no place to go when they arrived in Bethlehem one holy night so many years ago.
I attended Sunday mass twice at St. Augustine’s during my vacation and I had the pleasure of listening to the choir perform during the services. And I made sure to buy a copy of their CD before I left Hawaii.
I have since returned to Brooklyn to enjoy Christmas with my dear auntie and sister. It feels wonderful to be home, but I will always be grateful to the singers of St. Augustine-by-the-sea.