“In the end, all that truly matters are that we loved,” says writer and columnist Regina Brett in her new book, “God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours”. The book describes 50 hard-learned lessons that have struck a chord with readers worldwide, including the importance of loving God (Lesson #43), loving our children (Lesson #37) and loving our friends (Lesson #32). On a recent trip to the South Pacific, I met someone who loved his homeland so much that it opened my eyes to the gift of loving where we live.
Moorea is an absolutely gorgeous place, an idyllic tropical island of just 16,000 where virtually everyone knows everyone else. Our tour guide, Karl, explained to us that he has the perfect job because every day, he shows people the place he loves.
Thirty years ago, Karl’s father, Albert, was a clerk in a big Tahitian hotel. One day, he bought a taxi and opened his own operation on nearby Moorea. He slowly added rental cars, then tour buses, jet skis, ATVs (all terrain vehicles) and safari jeeps. If you see a tourist vehicle on Moorea now, chances are it’s owned by Albert or one of his kids. All have stayed, despite opportunities to study abroad, to help their dad in the business.
Karl runs the ATV operation. He took us through the island’s lush green mountains, weaving in and out of the pineapple plantations. He proudly pointed out the wild papaya, banana, breadfruit (grapefruit), mango and avocado trees, explaining how the land was not privately owned, so the fruit was free for all. And in fact, Moorea’s single main road is dotted with stands where vendors sell fresh produce and fish caught in the island’s warm turquoise waters.
When I asked Karl whether he ever gets bored on this tiny island of just 53 square miles, he replied, “No, because it’s always changing”.
This is an interesting statement considering that Moorea’s communications with the outside world, particularly via Internet, are limited; its residents must hop the ferry to Tahiti for all but their most basic shopping and recreation mainly consists of socializing with friends.
But therein lies the secret: it’s not about what Mooreans don’t have, but about what they do. It’s about waking up each day, enjoying the bounty and beauty of nature (Brett’s Lesson #39), and appreciating life as it unfolds moment by moment. Any changes may seem small to urbane tourists but to these islanders, they represent the ongoing flow of life itself.
Contrast this with a recent Pew Research Centre study which found that 48% of Americans aren’t happy where they live. Country folks want to relocate to the city, city dwellers dream of big open spaces and most everyone wants to move to another part of the country entirely. Millions of people are chronically unhappy because they can’t connect to where they live.
But after meeting Karl, I know that another path is possible. With an outgoing personality and a mile-wide smile, Karl could be successful anywhere. But he’s chosen to stay on Moorea simply because he loves it. And in talking to him, I realize that he has found one of the most important loves of all.
By Alison Kritzer
Previous articles by Alison:
That Which Unites Us: Pizza in Moorea
What Matters Most is Found in Moorea