"This is a game-changer - a life-changer," said Robert "Bobalou" Benavides, who was standing next to a brand-new wheelchair-accessible van outside of the David Crosby and Graham Nash concert at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center on Aug. 29th.
The license plate on the van, "Ruth's Ride," conveyed the meaning of the star-studded evening; this benefit concert was special - Crosby and Nash were performing to fund an accessible van for Benavides' beloved 10-year-old daughter, Ruth, who is physically challenged.
The event kicked off with music in the courtyard by two Hawaii favorites, Gail Swanson and John Cruz. Following their set, the crowd filtered into the concert venue. After the audience was seated, the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famers took the stage -- greeted with a standing ovation before one note was sung.
Crosby spoke of his long-time friendship with Benavides, saying they had literally saved each others' lives. As they welcomed Benavides and Ruth onto the stage, you could hardly hear their words over the applause. It wasn't necessary to hear; the message was clear when Crosby presented them with the keys to the new van - the highlight of the entire evening.
The music was almost secondary to the feeling of charity -- almost. Crosby and Nash shared new music and old favorites, some of which were written here in Hawaii. They welcomed special guest Jackson Browne, who played a few songs before being joined onstage by Crosby, Nash and Cruz.
Together, the four performers sang Cruz's "Island Style" with the crowd singing along to the catchy Hawaiian anthem. It was a wonderful night of music. However, the most touching performance came next when the four gentlemen performed Graham Nash's "Teach Your Children," which they dedicated to Benavides, Ruth and "all of the teachers."
In Hawaii, the word "kokua" means "to give." It is a Hawaiian tradition to give back more than you take from the islands. We don't always have time to clean beaches or volunteer at a local shelter but we can support artists, go to benefit concerts and kokua as a community for a cause we believe in.
Listening to great music in a wonderful venue with a room full of big-hearted humans - knowing that you are making a very specific and positive change in someone's life - is the essence of kokua -- the Aloha Spirit.
Mr. Benavides said it best: "To be able to have this van [for Ruth] is so special; if it got any better, I don't know if my heart could take it."