“The Lessons of Aloha” with Brother Noland

“Hawaiians represent the compatibility of humans and we have a responsibility to teach that – but without preaching. Just watch us and we’ll show you: Let’s go dance! Let’s go surf! To me, this is the secret and beauty of Hawaii. It’s a marvelous, special place in the world. And now we have the job of passing it along to others. Because inside every one of us is a Hawaiian,” (page 67) says humanitarian Kenny Brown.

“The Lessons of Aloha: Stories of the Human Spirit” (1999) is a collection of 40 personal stories from people all around Hawaii, chosen by Hawaiian songwriter and performer Brother Noland, with photography by Shuzo Uemoto.

Each short narrative in this “mixed plate for the spirit – saimin for the soul” (page xiv) is accompanied by a photo and a brief bio, and is organized into seven lessons:

* The Lessons Within – we learn about inner strength and determination from entertainer James Grant Benton’s commitment to breaking his drug addition and helping others; Sisters Offering Support founder Kelly Hill’s mission to helping women and children get out of prostitution; contractor Tom McNeil’s survival instinct that gets him through a hostage situation; drummer Kevin Delay’s triumph over physical handicaps with the help of determined parents and loving neighbors; MADD coordinator Donna Tyler’s appreciation for life and how she turned a personal tragedy into a calling; and Nancy Ishimoto and her son Shawn’s determination to be independent, despite his blindness.

* Lessons in the Community – we learn about making a difference in the community from Women in Need founder Mary Scott Lau’s empathy as she teaches life skills to girls and unwed mothers; Word of Life Christian Center Pastor Chauncey Pang’s appreciation for everyone he meets; Kamehameha Schools graduate Kamani Kualaau’s courage to doing what is right when he helped set in motion huge changes at his school; Mercado de la Raza owner Martha Sanchez’s appreciation for the acceptance and welcome of Hawaii; Palama Settlement director Verna Keyes’ letting go of things and looking to the future; and educator Ken Yamamoto’s encouragement of BLT (Beauty, Love, Truth).

* Lessons of the Land – we learn about appreciation and respect, from taro farmer Walker Ritte Jr.’s stand for what is right with peace and love; family man Moku Buchanan’s appreciation for family; builder and musician Reny Tsark’s leap of faith; wall builder Ralph Soken’s patience and self-discipline; rancher Charlie Onaka’s respect for hard work and success that is earned; conservationist Mac Poepoe’s respect for nature and other people; and retired plantation supervisor Karl Bader’s respect for workers by sharing meals.

* Lessons in the Marketplace – we learn about helping others and seizing opportunities from architect and humanitarian Kenny Brown’s celebration of the Hawaiian in all of us; Network Media founder Peter Gellatly, who said “okay” when people asked for help – and committed to it; Foundation of I chairman Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len’s teaching that “We are each 100 percent responsible for our own life”; Big Island Candies founder Pillan Ikawa’s focus on the importance of true relationships and trust; and Chun Ha founder Jonathan Lee’s decision to take a risk and create a successful commercial fishing business.

* Lessons in the Arts – we learn about loving what you do and respecting yourself from Kali maestro Frank Mamalias’ use of kindness and respect to prevent fighting; master ukulele craftsman Sonny D’s open heartedness; Kendo Master Atsuo Nishioka’s lessons of respect, patience, and humility – not just winning tournaments; hula dancer Mae Akeo Brown’s passion for hula; music teacher Kupuna Martha Hohu’s patience, discipline, and respect for the truth; and feather lei artisans Mary Lou Kekuewa, who stopped drinking for love of her daughter Paulette Kahalepuna.

* Lessons in Teamwork – we learn about leadership and teaching from coach and teacher Pal Eldredge’s decision to living one day at a time; coach and counselor Dean Kaneshiro’s transformation from teaching discipline to building self-esteem; Pop Warner football coach John Sharp’s lessons of discipline and consequences; basketball coach Dennis Agena’s honest and fair treatment of his players; and pro football veteran Blane Gaison’s focus on the future.

* The Lessons of Kalaupapa (Hansen’s Disease) – we learn about appreciating what we have from residents Henry Nalaielua, who lived through fear and hopelessness; Clarence “Boogie” Kahilihiwa, who was determined to find out about the sister he barely knew; and Katherine Puahala, who focuses on the good things in life; as well as chef Shannon Crivello, who battled drug abuse until a nightmare made him accept his faults and regrets, and knows that he has a lot to teach.

“The Lessons of Aloha” is inspiring and touching. It reminds us to appreciate what we have, instead of worrying about what we don’t have. It shows us that we can make a big difference in small ways. It makes us really think about what is important to us.

How has the spirit of aloha touched your life? How do you inspire aloha in others?

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