“Practice Aloha” compiled by Mark Ellman & Barbara Santos

From the colorful photos on the cover and photos of people, to the smooth, weighted feel of the pages, decorated with muted photos along the bottom edges as if the book is being held in two cupped hands, “Practice Aloha: Secrets to Living Life Hawaiian Style” (2010), compiled and edited by Mark Ellman and Barbara Santos, is warm, personal, and inspiring.

In Hawaiian, aloha comes from alo (share) and ha (breath). Sharing our life, our skills, our very breath with others. In “Practice Aloha,” so many people have come forward to share their stories, memories, recipes, songs, and good advice about the meaning of aloha and how we can practice aloha in our lives. It’s an outgrowth of the Practice Aloha Project started in 2009 to share stories of aloha.

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer reveals, “To revere all of life, to live with natural sincerity, to practice gentleness, and to be in service to others, is to live and practice aloha every day.”

Shep Gordon and Renee Loux Gordon remind us with a smile, “Aloha is leaving your slippers at the door.”

But more than the attempts to define aloha, I enjoy the personal stories and tales of brief connections that had a lasting impact. The ones I remember most are about sharing food.

Neil Abercrombie remembers his warm welcome at Paris Café: “Awkwardly, I grasped the chopsticks and decided the better part of honor required me to use them shovel-like to heave a huge portion into my mouth. Kim chee! I watched faces light up as I desperately tried to swallow as fast as I could.”

Elizabeth Engstrom wonders, “What couple – with ten children – feeds the neighborhood, including a dozen strangers? People who live their aloha, that’s who.”

Carole Kai is awed by the generous Hawaiian neighbors who shared their food and looked after her mother and 8 siblings, who were left alone for weeks at a time in the 1920s. She writes, “The Hawaiians believed in helping everyone because their belief was that any stranger could be a God and hospitality was the Hawaiian way.”

I see aloha in my everyday life: My aunt, who cooks for people, always remembers birthdays and special occasions, and goes out of her way to help her neighbors. My 4-year old son, who still comes to me with hugs and unexpectedly tells me, “I love you, Mom.” The crossing guard at a public elementary school, who smiles and waves at passing drivers. The tellers at my local bank who remember my name and greet me with smiles. The mail carrier who smiles and takes the time to pet my dog.

How do you practice aloha? What are your snapshots of aloha? To read more stories of aloha or share your own stories, visit practicealoha.org.

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