Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you really understood something, only to discover that you really didn't?
"The object of the game," she said, "Is to own all the property. Basically the game ends when you have everything and everyone else has nothing."
It's been five days since I found out how to win at Monopoly, and my heart still hurts. It's shocking, honestly, that in all those years of playing the game, I never understood its intended outcome. When we played Monopoly there was discussion and debate over who would be the banker, meticulous arrangement of cash under the lip of the game board, and each player carefully selecting their game piece. I think the dog was most popular.
We laughed when someone ended up in jail and we bought properties and made each other pay up when they landed on our lot - but never, never, did we ever try to take from each other. I can't even remember how the game ended. I think we just got bored or someone ran out of money and we all went outside.
I told D how sad I was about Monopoly.
"Don't you think it is just terrible that there is a game that teaches children that you win by taking everything from everyone else and then no one else has anything? I think we need to make a new game and call it Community - and everyone shares what they have with each other. And when you pass by someone's property, you can say hi or stop and just be together a while."
He just looked at me like I was crazy.
As we drove out to meet the community leaders - Gil from the Pu'uhonua o Puna Hub, U'i from Kalapana, Aunty Maddie and Ronnette from the legendary Bodacious Ladies, Greg and Mark from the Leilani Community Association - I thought I knew what the outcome would be. I honestly thought that by bringing them together I was just doing my "due diligence" and that I already knew what the right answers were.
We crowded around tables and mis-matched chairs and strained to hear one another over the constant whirring and blending and neighboring conversations that ricocheted off the tin shack.
And then they taught me what helping their community really means.
"Don't you think that for folks who are elderly and disabled, that this project really isn't the right answer?" I asked.
Gently, he replied, "Maybe. But they should be allowed to choose for themselves."
They should be allowed to choose for themselves.
Life is full of these moments of metanoia - having our perspective challenged and changed, seeing and seeing again for the first time, and having a renewed understanding of what we thought we knew all along.
And sitting in the Tin Shack, here was a moment of metanoia.
When you've had no choice, when everything has been taken from you, when you had no say in where you go, when you go, when you eat or shower or sleep, then choice is everything. Even the choice to say, "No."
I've been following and witnessing and trying to help out in this disaster only for as long as they have been living it, and their knowledge and insights far outweigh any great ideas I might have. Their lived wisdom, their network of relationships in the community, their insight into resources is so vast and valuable and I realized that they are so, so much more than victims of a disaster. They are teachers and role models and Neighborhood Watch volunteers and parents and board members and farmers and they are my friends. And they are my family. I am in reverent awe of not only their resilience, but their constant and immense generosity.
To put their generosity into perspective - one man sitting among us had given up his morning to lend to this conversation - while leaving behind his home that was about to be consumed by lava.
If the intended outcome of Monopoly is to essentially be the sole winner, all alone - then the only way to win at Community is to be sure that in the end, everyone is still together.