Most people don’t know this, but I was actually born in San Francisco, not Hawaii. I was raised in Hawaii, and I never lived in California at all, so when people ask where I was born, I usually say Hawaii since it’s more convenient in passing conversation, and it spares me the explanation. But I’ll tell you the story now.
My parents were planning to visit my dad’s family who lived in the Bay area. I wasn’t supposed to be born for a while yet, so they and the doctor decided it would be safe for them to travel. They figured they’d return to Hawaii and still have ample time left before I was due.
But while they were there my mom realized I was going to be born early. Too early. She was a first-time mother in an unfamiliar place, going into labor far sooner than she was supposed to, nothing was going as planned, so I can imagine she was pretty scared. She remembers the story vividly, and frequently tells me the song playing on the radio in the taxi on their way to the hospital was, “All I Need is a Miracle,” by Mike & the Mechanics.
The main part of the song goes like this:
“All I need is a miracle,
All I need is you.”
My mom says she was praying to God for a miracle, so that I’d be born safely.
I was born prematurely. The doctors were unsure of how long I’d live, so I was baptized on the spot in the hospital. I don’t know how small I was, but they tell me I was pretty tiny. Even when it became apparent I would survive, there was still concern as to how healthy I would be.
I guess I shouldn’t say I never lived in San Francisco, because from what I understand I had to stay in the hospital for a month, followed by another month at a relative’s house before I was able to “return” to Hawaii. Even then I had to use a ventilator (or some type of machine), so I’m told, and there was an alarm of some sort that would sound when something would go wrong. There were plenty of false alarms, and my relatives were constantly running to see if I was okay.
Something must have gone right, because here I am, 24 years later, healthy as can be. People constantly remark about how tiny I was when I was a baby, and how big I am now. “I carried him in one hand!” says my grandpa, when telling the story. “Now look at him!” I’m 6’3”, 190 pounds, and I’ve always been active in sports and things, so yeah, I’d say something went right.
My mom often tells me the story, with the song and everything, and the implication is that it was a miracle I was born healthy. It’s a good story, but I think they might be exaggerating a bit. Not only was I my parents first child, but I was the first grandchild to my grandparents on both sides, and the first nephew to my uncles and aunts. There were a lot of people hoping and pulling for me, so perhaps they were just a little overly worked up.
I don’t mean to sound unappreciative of the care that so many people took for me, but I can’t help but feel like I was never in any real danger. A lot of babies are born prematurely, right? Some more premature than I was. And anyway, my mom says that I’ve always been impatient and curious, saying I “just wanted to see San Francisco.”
Babies usually get a lot of care and attention, but I think I got more than most because of all the commotion surrounding my birth. This continued throughout my childhood, and I guess it never really went away. I’ve always been spoiled. I think I have a tendency to take the little things people do for me for granted.
My mom has always told me I have guardian angels. My first guardian angel is my Uncle Robert, who was my dad’s oldest sibling. He died of an illness before I was born. I don’t know how old he was, but I guess he was in his late thirties / early forties. I don’t know much about him, but I think he worked as a mechanic. I’m told he was a good older brother who took care of my dad and his siblings after their alcoholic father left the family. So when my parents found out they were having a baby boy, they made the easy decision to name me after him. He and I are both the oldest child in large families, we’re both hapa* (he was Filipino/Latino), and I carry on his given name, so even though I never met him, I feel as if we have a lot in common. My mom says he was the guardian angel who made sure I was born safely.
* hapa: Mixed ethnicity, with partial Asian/Pacific Islander roots.
Next is my other uncle, who I’m not actually related to, but was a close friend of the family. He’s my godfather. He got sick and died when I was really young. I think he was also in his thirties or forties. I don’t remember much about him, mostly just vague images. But I do remember him taking me driving around the North Shore of Oahu, passing Rabbit Island, and then taking me to lunch at Jack in the Box. People say he was a good public speaker, and an all-around nice guy. He was one of the many people who cared for me as a baby.
Then comes one of my great-uncles, who died in a fire in 2006. He did his tour in the military, and then worked various odd jobs as janitors, handi-cap bus drivers, and such. He did a lot for me and my family. He was not rich, but he and my grandpa bought us our first mini-van when our family was growing, and he would regularly give us money for our savings, which over time added up to quite a lot. He helped us when we moved to Seattle. My dad actually got teary-eyed at his funeral, which I think is the first and only time I’ve seen him cry.
Then comes another great-uncle, who died in 2009 after complications from breaking his back. He was in the navy “pumping gas” for planes, before working as a mechanic and craftsman. He used to pick my sister and I up from preschool and babysit us until my mom and dad got home from work. He would also give us quite a bit of money, food, and anything else he had, and he never wanted anything in return. Seriously. You practically had to force him to accept if you wanted to give him something.
My mom also includes her brother, who died when he was 3 years old, also in a fire, decades before I was born.
I include my dog, Rex, who died of cancer in 2007. He died in his prime, but had long guarded us and our home. Some of the surrounding blocks of our neighborhood had experienced burglaries and shady characters, but we never did, and my mom largely credits Rex for protecting us and our immediate neighbors.
So there you have it. My guardian angels. All died tragically. But all had a profound impact on me.
I’ve never had anything close to a near-death experience, but there have been times when things could have easily gone wrong, and somehow I got off scotch-free.
After I graduated high school I went to an acting school in Seattle for a little while. It was a bit of a drive, so one of the girls in my class and I would carpool to save gas. Usually I insisted on driving (it’s a guy thing), but she wanted to this time, so I let her.
After class we were driving at night through downtown Seattle, when she turned the wrong way down a one-way street. We found ourselves heading straight toward a bus, and it wasn’t slowing down at all. She drove up onto the sidewalk, and somehow we missed all of the signs, poles, and pedestrians, and we ended up safely on another street.
She was in shock. “I can’t believe what just happened!” she said.
“You’re never driving again,” was my reply.
It’s kind of amazing how we got out of that situation without hurting anyone, and without even a scratch on the car. We were able to drive away as if nothing had happened. I couldn’t help but wonder if someone up there was looking out for me…
While in Washington my car had broken down, so I took to biking. I was riding home one foggy night during the winter. I had a flashlight attached to my bike, but as I rode, the battery died. I tried to play around with it to make it come back on, but it was no use. As I rode down a hill, a car was approaching, and I thought, “Oh man, this guy probably can’t see me at all.” But as the car got closer my flashlight flickered on long enough to let the driver know I was there. After that the flashlight died, and never came on again. “What a strange coincidence,” I thought. I couldn’t help but wonder…
One morning I was driving to work on Martin Luther King Jr. Way where the speed limit is 50. Some
idiot who doesn’t know how to drive terribly mistaken person had stopped in the middle of this busy highway trying to make a left turn across a double yellow line, which, of course, is never supposed to be crossed. (There are even signs explaining this.) It was around a corner, so it was difficult for approaching cars to see. The car in front of me slammed on his breaks, and I slammed on mine, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop in time, so I swerved into the next lane.
Had the roads been wet (as they often are in Seattle) or had there been a car in the lane beside me, the outcome could have been much different. But instead I went to work as if nothing had happened.
There are other examples that I won’t share here. But it’s moments like these, when things could have easily gone terribly wrong, and instead I got off without a scratch, that make me wonder if my guardian angels really are pulling some strings for me. Is it all in my head? Perhaps. Maybe I was never in any real danger, but even so there comes with it a strange sense of reassurance. Society forces us to think practically. But that’s the nice thing about having an imagination. There’s always a small portion of you that can believe in these unseen things. You just never really know what could be up there, or what could be happening around you.
When I was in Washington I had my own apartment. After a year I could no longer afford it, so I had to move back in with my parents. I really didn’t want to, because my mom and I argue all the time, mostly about my career path. She thinks it’s getting me nowhere, and that I’m wasting my time. Almost every night she’d threaten to kick me out if I didn’t change my ways. Not being able to keep my big mouth shut, I had to argue back. But one night the argument was more heated than usual, and finally, I was actually kicked out. My dad is bigger than me, and he literally shoved me and all my belongings out the door.
I had no money, and nowhere to go. “This sucks,” I thought. “It doesn’t get much more pitiful than this.” It was just laughably bad. So I threw all my things in my car, and slept in the back seat.
That night I had a dream. All of my guardian angels were there. They didn’t really say anything, but I knew they were there to cheer me up and say, “Don’t worry about it.” The next day I swallowed my pride, apologized to my folks, agreed to certain terms, and I was reinstated back into the household.
I don’t know if my guardian angels really have pulled some invisible strings to help steer me out of tough situations, or if it’s just a nice thought, but there is a tremendous amount of confidence and reassurance that comes from believing that there are a lot of people out there pulling for you.
I’ve lived a very easy life so far. Seeing how I’ve been blessed with so much, and how nothing truly bad has ever happened to me personally, I can’t help but feel I’m meant to achieve something more here.
There are many definitions as to what constitutes a miracle. Like the word “love,” everyone seems to have their own idea of what it is. Some think it’s an act of God – perhaps carried out by angels – some think it’s just a fortunate coincidence, and some say any wonderful occurrence is a miracle.
I do not pretend to know God’s thoughts, or what unseen forces may be working among us. It is not my place to try and define what is or isn’t a miracle, and I’m certainly not going to go around proclaiming I can perform them. There is nothing special about me. But whether or not you believe in miracles, angels, religion, God, or the like, I think almost everyone wants someone to remember nice things about them after they die.
You can live life as if there are no such things as miracles, looking around you to see nothing but ordinary people and ordinary things taking up space. Or you could live as if everything is a miracle.
See, my guardian angels are called so because of the impact they had on me and my family during their lifetimes. None of them were rich by any means, at least not by material standards. None of them had families of their own, so they might not be remembered by many. But they are remembered by me and my family, and hopefully I in turn can use the gifts they’ve given me to make a difference. They were ordinary people who did little things with care, and it went a long way. So even now that they’re gone, we can’t help but feel they are still with us, continuing to exercise love in seemingly simple ways, just as they always did.
Could this be what miracles are? Simple love and care that results in something greater, something that makes a lasting impact, something that makes you feel a person’s love is with you wherever you go?
I’ve always thought that I had to do big things to make a difference. And maybe someday I will. But when we take the time and effort to do little things for people, not just towards family and friends, but towards anyone we come across, regardless of whether we like that person, dislike them, or have no opinion of them, we are able to make a difference, even if it’s only in a small way. It might sometimes look like your effort goes unnoticed or unappreciated. But you never know how far the little things you do will really go. It all adds up. You might not think you’re doing much, but you might one day realize that you made more of a difference than you ever thought you could.
A lot of times we think there is nothing special we can do for others. But I think doing things with love makes quite a profound impact. It’s about taking a little bit of time for someone, even when you’ve got a busy schedule. It’s about going just a little bit out of your way to help someone even if you’re tired and you’ve had a long day. It’s about not ignoring the little things, and looking for ways you can help others, instead of simply going through your daily routine concerned only with yourself and the challenges that you face.
We should never think that we can’t help, that we have nothing to give, or that things we do are not important. We should seek to do more than just get by. When we act with love towards people, when we take just a bit of time and effort to do something for them, in this way, little by little, we are making a difference. We should not overlook the little things, or ignore opportunities, even when it doesn’t benefit ourselves. And we should make the effort to do the ordinary things in life with greater care.
Because that is how miracles can happen.
I’m Rob Kajiwara, believer in miracles. Thanks for reading.