Anyone who works in the service industry is not unfamiliar with the concept of having to work on national holidays. On Saturday, Christmas Eve, my day was spent photographing paddlers and showing guests the beauty of Kailua Bay from the seat of a kayak. I was happy to work on Christmas Eve, especially as I was unable to spend the day with my family back home on the east coast. That being said, my Christmas Eve went from being just another day, to one I will remember forever. Because moments after getting off of work, I shook hands with President Barack Obama.
On Saturday, I excitedly punched out of work at 5:30pm after a long day, ready for a seafood feast with good people. As I stepped out of Kailua Beach Adventures, I took in my surroundings only to notice very, very buff men on ever corner. Wearing aloha shirts, khakis, and unmistakable clear, coiled earpieces, I thought to myself, “Obama is coming”.
Since moving to Oahu, I have become familiar with the tradition President Obama and his family have of getting shave ice at Island Snow. Last year, Obama and his family visited the shopping center that I work at the day after I had left Oahu to head home for the holidays. Of course I hoped to catch a glimpse of Obama this year, but what I never imagined was getting the opportunity to meet him and shake his hand.
After acknowledging that Obama was likely on his way, I convinced my remaining coworkers to wait and see what was to unfold. Within moments we had been patted down, scanned, and approved to shake hands with the President.
After 15 minutes of waiting in great anticipation, the motorcade pulled up and I watched as Mr. President exited the SUV. I wasn’t prepared to feel the rush of emotions that I felt – gratitude, joy, excitement, and deep reverence. Suddenly, one of the greatest Presidents in the history of the United States was just feet away from me. I had never imagined or anticipated this moment.
After President Obama and his many family members entered Island Snow, they slowly trickled out with their sweet, refreshing shave ice. After mingling with family members, Obama began to make moves in the crowd’s direction.
One by one, President Obama took the time to shake each and every one of our hands. He wished us a Merry Christmas and held the babies in our small, intimate crowd. Seeing this man up close and personal, after seeing him countless times on television and in the newspaper was surreal. The most powerful man in the world – a respectful, genuine, intelligent, and honorable President that I believe him to be – took time out of his Christmas Eve to meet us.
Ten minutes later, Obama and his entourage filed back into the SUVs, and the scene quickly dissipated – looking as though nothing of the sort had just occurred. I sent a quick text to my parents letting them know that I had just met someone – Barack Obama – President of the United States of America. Merry Christmas, indeed.