nurturing thursdays: “aloha”…for all

Awaiting our departure from Hawaii where we’d been vacationing the last couple of weeks, I browsed throughout an airport shop  filled with souvenir trinkets and the like. Among the several things I scooped up was The Book of Aloha – A Collection of Hawaiian Proverbs & Inspirational Wisdom. I thought my daughter would enjoy reading what others interpreted aloha to mean. Among them was the following:

Hawaiians were “hospitable, kindly, giving a welcome to strangers, affectionate, generous givers, who always invited strangers to sleep at the house and gave them food and fish without pay, and clothing for those who had little; a people ashamed to trade”

Visiting Hawaii, the home of my ancestors, went a long way in replenishing my aloha. Whether with family members or complete strangers, I found it easy to fall back into the island routine of sharing bear hugs and broad smiles. Telling one another “I love you” was as comfortable as saying “Hello. How are you?”

The tropical climate might have something to do with Hawaiian hospitality. After all, it’s easier to be pleasant when the sun is shining and the breezy trade winds help maintain 80 degree temperatures. By comparison a recent article in the local paper where we reside here in Washington, spoke of the “Seattle-freeze.” Could it be that the rainy, gray weather makes Seattle-ites less hospitable toward others?

While it’s true that year-round, warm weather might influence the mood of the natives, it’s more likely that Hawaiian aloha is culturally derived.

Hawaii’s first monarch, King Kamehameha, allowed his people to harvest what was necessary for their daily needs from the land and the sea. Thus the natives were without material want, for all was provided them. And without an end in sight, they could always benefit from the fruits of their own labor. Why then would they not readily share their bounty?

While there is no monarchy providing for Hawaii’s population today, islanders continue the tradition of sharing whatever they have. It is the legacy handed down from one generation to the next. Newcomers to the islands are also inclined to adopt Hawaiian hospitality, practicing it as freely as if born to it. 

Many Hawaiians have migrated to the mainland United States, seeking higher education and/or better paying jobs. With them they bring the spirit of aloha. It’s very likely then that there are pockets of Hawaiian hospitality scattered throughout the country. And it’s just as likely that these fellow islanders will agree that when we return to the land of our birth, we are always infused with an abundance of our ancestral aloha.

Makana, age 7, says it best in The Book of Aloha,

Aloha is when there is a room with a million strangers and then they say “aloha,” and then they are not strangers anymore.

We can all partake of aloha, regardless of where we were born and where our life’s journey has taken us. Perhaps if we all practiced a little aloha towards one another, world peace might be attained. After all the land, the sea and all their bounty were loaned us to fulfill our daily needs. Rather than hoard them for ourselves why not share them freely with others, for the happiness and greater good of all?

…a valuable lesson…from a speck of land in a big ocean…hawai’i…

………hugmamma.

 Visit http://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/nurturing-thurs-my-favorite/ for more inspirational writings by several regular contributors to Nurturing Thursdays.

“shaka, bra…”

Sunset from Ka'annapali, Maui, Hawaiian Islands

Image by Mastery of Maps via Flickr

That’s Hawaiian speak for “it’s easy,” “no worries,” “right on.” At least that’s what I’ve thought it to mean when I lived and played in the islands, decades ago. I’m sure over time it’s come to mean more things to more people. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find the following email from kamaainas (non-locals who become locals by virtue of moving to Hawaii or owning property there). I don’t know them personally, but feel I do through their intermittent communication. Hope you enjoy this mini “pigeon-english” lesson. Never know, it might come in handy on a future visit to my native island paradise.

Aloha!
The “shaka” sign has meant many things over the years and is a definite part of Hawaiian culture and the aloha spirit that is always present in Hawai’i. Today, it can mean many things, including “Howzit?” (How’s it going?), “No worries!”, “Thanks!” and much more. It is by far the most well-known and used gesture by Hawai’i locals and islanders, men, women, and keiki (children) alike. It’s used as a gesture of friendship, to greet, and to say goodbye. It’s how local people wave at others. Interpreted to mean “hang loose” or “right on,” the “shaka” sign is a constant reminder that in Hawaii, it is not the norm to worry or rush. “Shaka” represents the embodiment of “island style.” It signals that everything is all right.

Road to Hana, Maui, Hawaiian Islands

Image by Mastery of Maps via Flickr

The “shaka” sign is more than just nonverbal communication. When you use it, you acknowledge the true concept of aloha and participate in the synergistic heartbeat of Hawai’i. A guest expressed it this way: “We remember when we got our first “shaka” in Hawai’i. We were enjoying the drive on the road to Hana. We looked in the rearview mirror and noticed a pickup truck following behind us. We assumed the folks in the truck were local residents and weren’t on a sightseeing mission as we were, so at our first opportunity, we pulled over to let the truck pass by us. As the truck passed, the passenger gave us a ‘shaka’.” (By the way, local residents will always appreciate your pulling over to allow them to pass if you are driving slowly.)

Edited photo of

Image via Wikipedia

To make a “shaka,” extend your thumb and pinkie while curling in the index and middle fingers. You can rotate your wrist too.

The “shaka” is a simple, yet powerful, way to remind locals and visitors of the way people look out for each other on the Islands, and strive to spread aloha day in, and day out, in keeping with the Hawaiian principle of “malama i kekahi i kekahi,”…”take care of one, take care of all.”

If you’re new to the islands, don’t be shy about throwing up “shakas.” Just make sure you’ve got the hand gesture down first!

road to hana

A hui hou…
Anne & Wes

 
 

 

 

volunteering…and cowboys

The following was written on Wednesday, 4/20…

Two Bridges and a Small Stream In a Pacific No...

Image by bterrycompton via Flickr

Have been sitting here for the last couple of hours volunteering as a meet and greet person for Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association. By sitting in close proximity to professional writers, I thought perhaps through the process of osmosis I’d gain some knowledge that might prove useful to me, as I try to become one of them. At this point I’m a little doubtful. I can see that the staff writers aren’t about to sit around sharing tidbits of insider information with me. Besides which, the 3 are much younger.

I’m like the “fly on the wall.” I’m here, but I’m not here. Their words flow unencumbered through the wooden bi-fold screen, loud and clear. But with my back toward them, and the screen in-between, I’m naturally excluded from their conversation. But those aren’t the only obstacles to my being part of the group. I’m old enough to be their mothers, or grandmothers!

Public Cowboy

Image via Wikipedia

Our generations enjoy different jokes, music, topics of interest. But as I said before, I’m not here to schmooze. I’m here to “pull my own weight,” which in this case means tackling someone who walks through the front door before they can invade the inner sanctum of the youngsters with whom I work. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I mean they’re in their 20s and I’m in my 60s. Get the picture? They’re up and coming, while I’m on the verge of applying for Medicare. Unless the Republicans pull the rug out from under my feet, that is!

Cowboy W-1

Image via Wikipedia

I’m excellent at meeting and greeting. So far I’ve stopped a couple “dead in their tracks” who were soliciting ads for their magazine, “Best of Issaquah.” After querying them, I handed them over to Kelly, one of my young overseers. Next through the door came a giant, hulking man, with a mile-wide grin planted on his face, bearing huge plastic bags that contained colorful, plastic eggs under both his armpits. Planting myself in front of this oversized, elderly gentleman, I asked how I might help. Not slowed down by me in the least, he proceeded to sweep me along as he continued striding toward the back office. Blah, blah, blah…yada, yada, yada…I heard myself saying. My companions stood up in unison, laughing heartily at my faux pas. It seems the gentleman was the head of the assocation of shopkeepers in the Gilman Village complex. Duh? The youngsters cut me some slack, complimenting me on how seriously I took my job. “Ruff! Ruff! Aren’t I a great guard dog?!?”

Next I tried attacking a lady carrying a large, heavy box. She too was one of “them,” dropping something off that belonged to some author. But the final visitor of the day, was the real deal. Finally, I was confronting a stranger, a complete unknown. But this 77-year-old gentleman was mighty friendly…mighty friendly. He’d come from the Senior Center where he participates in a writing class. Thinking he wanted something a little more advanced, a friend referred him to PNWA.

Basic creditcard / debitcard / smartcard graph...

Image via Wikipedia

Amidst much joking and bantering back-and-forth, the gentleman signed up for an annual, paid membership. Kelly again assisted. He tried to get she or I to loan him a credit card. We laughed. Then when he said he’d pay cash, he asked if I had the cash. I laughed. He soon pulled out a $100 bill which I handed over to the staff. As they poked around for the cash box, which turned up void of funds, I overheard the man speaking on his cellphone. When Kelly left to make change from a neighboring shop, he told me what the call was about.

The Cowboy Millionaire

Image via Wikipedia

It seemed the man and a friend were part-time prospectors. They were set to fly to New Mexico to track down buried treasure, hidden in the 1800’s by outlaws. Evidently they forgot where they had dumped the stuff when they went to retrieve it for the law. Unfortunately, this man’s partner had called cancelling the trip because of wildfires in the area. I was dumbfounded. Could the storytelling get any richer? Yes, it could.

The old codger proceeded to tell me he had other friends who were in the film business, 2 were directors, and one was an actor. I was familiar with some of the movies in which they were involved, but at the moment their titles escape me. In fact one of his director friends encouraged this gentleman to write Western stories, which is what he plans to do. It seems his writing skills have come in handy helping to edit some screenplays. Needless to say I was speechless for most of the conversation. 

So as not to encourage the man to while away the afternoon with me, I nodded and smiled, but spoke very little. He eventually stood up from his chair taking his leave. But before he did he bent over to ask me if I’d run away with him. Well I nearly fell out of my chair, but quickly replied “I don’t think my husband would like that!” To which came the retort “Well, I’ll just have to ask him!” Followed by my laughing response that I’d been married 41 years, and I didn’t think my husband would walk away from his investment. Backing away the man laughingly exclaimed “The poor guy!”

Four Cowboys

Image by anyjazz65 via Flickr

Well if I had been writing a Western, I’d have said this old cowboy blew through the front door of our office overturning everything in his path, like a human tornado, before taking off again for parts, and adventures, unknown. But before leaving, he promised to return…as a volunteer.

Cowboy snake

Image via Wikipedia

you know where i’ll be when that day arrives…out on the open range…hugmamma.

 

redding ct, like the maui of old

When someone learns that I’m from Maui, she always exclaims “Oh, don’t you miss it? Why’d you ever leave?” I take a breath, preparing to answer what I truly feel in my heart.

Maui as it is today, even as it was 15 years ago, is no longer the island of my childhood. As with the neighboring  islands, in fact as with other popular destinations, tourism has transformed what was a less populous, less commercial, off-the-beaten-track locale into a mecca for the rich and famous, and even the not so rich and famous. Mind you, I came to terms with the drastic change some time ago. On one of my last trips to Maui, years ago, it was apparent that visitors to the island provided a livelihood for the majority of the locals. So I wasn’t about to admonish them as co-conspirators in the “ruination” of Maui, while I left to make my living and home elsewhere.

Before my daughter was born, actually before she was even a possibility, I was returning home to Long Island, New York from a business trip to Kansas City. Seated next to me on the flight was an attractive man dressed in cords and a sweater, appearing very much like a New Englander. Striking up a conversation, we spoke of many things.  One of the topics was where we resided. I explained that while my husband and I lived in Westbury, I wanted to move somewhere reminiscent of my birthplace, Maui. I desired the same small town atmosphere, where neighbors knew each other, where children played together, where there were town parades, fairs, picnics. Without hesitation, my traveling companion blurted “Redding, Connecticut! You should move to Redding, Connecticut!” 

I’d never heard of the town, so my new friend proceeded to describe it as a small, rural community isolated from the hubbub of surrounding towns by vast acres of pristine land, much of which belonged to the town ensuring that they would never be commercially developed. He went on to explain that to enter Redding, one either drove alongside reservoirs which supplied water to the town, or along country roads shaded by trees. The idyllic picture seemed lifted from a postcard. Giving me the name of the realtor who helped find this New York City writer a getaway home, I was convinced that my husband and I needed to make the 75 mile trip north of NYC, in search of Redding.

We got more than we bargained for, as a result of our hunt for a new home. Nearly bereft of hope that we’d be parents someday, Redding was the answer to our prayer. After 16 years of marriage, our daughter was born. The first 11 years of her life were spent in an oasis within the midst of suburban Connecticut. Watching her in those early years was like stepping back in time, into my own childhood Paradise. 

Topographically different, Redding had rolling hills, and a man-made lake in which to swim; Maui boasted a dormant volcano, and ocean waves upon which to surf. Redding’s landscape was dotted with sugar maple trees, whose leaves were seasonally transformed into the colors of the setting sun. So unlike Maui’s tropical palms swaying gently in the evening breezes, as the glassy Pacific waters below mirrored the shining  moon overhead.

In spite of their disparities, the people of both Redding and Maui were alike in their hospitality toward newcomers, and the friendliness within their communities. Schools were small, so while students didn’t know everyone personally, they were aware of everyone through friends or others. Children looked forward to trick-or-treating, door-to-door.  School plays were exciting affairs, as were school dances, and basketball games. Sleepovers were commonplace, as were play-dates and church picnics. Dads coached sports teams and led the Boy Scouts; moms were Girl Scout leaders and drove carpools. Children caught buses to school, or walked. Neighbors helped one another; they prepared meals for a family with a cancer-stricken mom; they cared for children when parents were tending to emergencies; they consoled those who laid loved ones to rest.

My daughter’s memories of an idyllic childhood in Redding  are just that, treasured remembrances. And so it is with the Maui of my youth. So when I’m asked “Wouldn’t you want to live there now?” I always reply,  “The Maui where I grew up is in my heart; it’s with me, wherever I am.” I know my daughter feels similarly about Redding, Connecticut, the town she still calls her home, though she’s not lived there for 13 years.

“home is where your heart is,” truly…hugmamma.