Archive for December 2019

Mahalo in 2019

December 31, 2019

Art by BWL, age 8

Happy New Year, Better Hawaii readers!

I’ve been taking more time to appreciate the good things in life. Every day, I write down at least one good thing that has happened. I also try to express gratitude more often.

Gratitude is not just saying “thank you” – it is also extending the most generous interpretation possible to the words and actions of others, as Brené Brown reminds us when she identifies the seven elements of trust. And that is sometimes a more challenging mindset.

I would like to recognize just a few of the people and organizations that have touched my life and help make Hawaii a beautiful and compassionate place to live.

Mahalo to caring teams of educators who are teaching my son about critical thinking and being part of a community – seventh grade teachers, Allison (science), Heather (math), Joseph (English), and Renee (social studies) and eighth grade teachers Allison (science), Kylee (math), Diandra (English), and Rachel (social studies), as well as PE, art, language, engineering and coding, counselors, librarians, school administrators and support staff.

Mahalo to the Department of Parks and Recreation for enriching our lives with playgrounds, basketball and tennis courts, baseball fields, seniors’ groups, and classes like yoga and drawing. And a special mahalo to Koko Head District Park for their support of a community ceramics studio, giving us space to be creative, social, and introduce others to pottery.

Mahalo to the Hawaii Hotel Industry Foundation for their Visitor Industry Charity Walk – a friendly walk for nonprofits in Hawaii, with refreshment stations, music, and entertainment.  We sometimes criticize the tourism industry, but they do so much for our economy, jobs, and community.

Mahalo to NAMI Hawaii (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) for co-sponsoring a fantastic “Wellness and Self-Care Conference” that addressed coping with stress and avoiding burnout. Keynote speaker Paul Hutman, PhD taught us that positives are in abundance; mental health counselor Christine J. Heath taught us that mental well-being is always with us; and Kumu Ramsay Taum taught us that we can make things right through forgiveness, repentance, and letting go.

Mahalo to Project Dana, a nonprofit organization that provides services to the frail elderly and disabled to ensure their well-being and independence. At their 30th Anniversary Luncheon, we heard from Keynote speaker Dr. William Thomas, founder of the Eden Alternative and Eden at Home, remind us that there are three “plagues” of old age – loneliness, boredom, and helplessness – and they are absolutely curable. The cure for loneliness is companionship. The cure for boredom is variety. The cure for helplessness is service.

Mahalo to you, Better Hawaii readers, for helping to make Hawaii better.

Who are you thankful for? What do you appreciate most about living and working in Hawaii?

Best books of 2019

December 24, 2019

Reading books is my favorite hobby, and I make time to read almost every day – and sometimes late into the night.

Last year, I was drawn to books about coping with adversity, leadership, and finding meaning at work. This year, I indulged in books about living in interesting times and hold-on-for-the-wild-ride adventures.

Here are 6 of the best books that I read in 2019:

* “Kingdom of Ash” by Sarah J. Maas immerses us in a world of magic where a queen spins intricate plots to free her people and protect others from slavery. It’s an epic fantasy about refusing to yield; choosing who you will be; fighting for your belief in a better world; and self-sacrifice for the greater good.

* “The Merciful Crow” by Margaret Aven sinks us into a plague-ridden world where an outcast caste bargain to save a prince in exchange for protection. It’s a young adult fantasy about birthright privilege and persecution; longing to live without fear; and doing something better with your life than die.

*  “Rules of Redemption” by TA White catapults us into a future of alien wizards, space travel, and an ex-soldier who is still fighting a hidden war. It’s a science fiction soap opera about making your own path; learning who you really are; and needing to be understood.

*  “Cry Pilot” by Joel Dane launches us into a future where criminals can be redeemed by surviving a life-threatening sacrifice. It’s a thrilling military science fiction novel about atonement (“Debt’s don’t disappear because there’s nobody left to collect them”); acknowledging that hardships make us more brittle, not harder; and the balance of individual independence and political stability.

* “Nameless” by Dean Koontz sucks us into the life of a man with no name, no memories, and no desire to remember his past. It’s a collection of six episodic short thrillers about living with mystery and purpose; confronting the darkness in humankind; and the comfort of not knowing.

* “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” (2014) by Atul Gawande is a deeply personal, somber, and honest reflection about the modern experience of mortality. Gawande shares his story as a surgeon and his father’s experience with a spinal cord tumor, reflecting on how old age has changed, American veneration of the independent self, and our shifting mindset away from fixing problems to supporting quality of life.

Which books have kept you reading late into the night? Which books would you recommend?

Happy reading and happy new year!

Lessons from parking attendant duty

December 17, 2019

Every now and then, when my son complains about doing homework or chores, I remind him that sometimes we have to do things even if we don’t want to.

One weekend, I volunteered to help out at a community event. Knowing that events can be chaotic, I offered to do whatever job needed doing.

The volunteer coordinator took me at my word. I ended up stationed at a remote parking lot, in the sun, far from the booths, music, and people. It was an easy job to check people off on the list and it needed to be done, but not many people parked there and I was quickly bored.

Here are 3 lessons I learned (or re-learned) from parking attendant duty:

1. We can’t always control our circumstances, but we can control how we respond to them. I smiled and thanked each driver. I knew that I was the first person from the event that they would meet that day, and I wanted to make a good impression.

2. Make boring tasks into a game. Unwilling to sit down, I did a lot of pacing. I tried to time my pacing so that I faced the entrance with the flow of traffic, and turning back when red lights limited the number of cars passing by.

3. Small kindnesses have a big impact. One man kept me company as he waited for the bus. He was friendly and talkative, and made the time enjoyable. Another woman was concerned about me standing in the sun and offered to get me water (I had a water bottle with me). Her small kindness really touched me and kept me going for the rest of my shift.

A lot of jobs are like that – necessary, easy, not exactly unpleasant, but tedious all the same, like doing the laundry or sweeping. We can choose to make them learning opportunities.

How do you motivate yourself to do boring tasks with enthusiasm?

Changing the way we think about nonprofits

December 10, 2019

My perception of nonprofit work has changed over the years.

Philanthropy and volunteerism were my first introduction to nonprofit work. I watched my grandmother donate money to faith organizations, ministries, and missionaries; and visit with people who were ill or grieving.

As I grew older, I was impressed with the dedicated people who are committed to public service. They do good work and they have positive impacts on so many people – and through them, our entire society.

It made me feel good that people are willing to look beyond themselves and help others. I also showed me that we cannot depend on government to solve all of our problems. I slowly started to find my “favorite” charities to support, starting with my college,

As the years went on, I saw that most nonprofits constantly struggle for funding and support. The number and frequency of fundraising appeals I received by mail and email seemed to grow exponentially. I felt overwhelmed by the number of requests for donations.

I wondered why so many people started their own nonprofits, instead of working with existing nonprofits. I worried that a growing number of nonprofits are competing for scarce resources – donations, volunteers, and community support.

When I started working at a local nonprofit, I felt the pressure to raise money. I tried to convince myself that competition can be a good thing, offering more choices to people who need help and ensuring that the most effective nonprofits survive. But it still felt like we were all competing to be the lowest bidder for fundraising dollars.

Then I took a fundraising course by the Lake Institute that changed my perception of nonprofit fundraising.

One of the books we read was Kerry Alys Robinson’s “Imagining Abundance: Fundraising, Philanthropy, and a Spiritual Call to Service” (2014). “Cultivate the habit of taking delight in the good fortune of others and you will never be without occasion for joy,”

I realized that I needed to change my mindset. Nonprofit work is not a competition for scarce resources. All of us benefit when people support nonprofits.

There is enough time, talent, treasure, energy, and passion for all of us.

To all of you who work for, volunteer with, or support nonprofit organizations, you have my heartfelt thanks. Thank you for the work that you do. Thank you for working hard with less resources. Thank you for seeing individuals, children, and families in need and deciding to do something about it.

The things kids say

December 3, 2019

I was driving home after picking up my 13-year old son from school, and watching him sleep in the back seat. It made me feel nostalgic for the days when he declared wild and surprising things.

Here are a few of his words of wisdom that might brighten your day:

Career plans, age 5:
“When I am 20 years old I will be a library man. When I am 30 years old — you know what I will be? I will be a spy!”

Birthday memories, age 6:
Dad: “Do you remember being in Mommy’s tummy?”
Son: “Yes.”
Dad: “What was it like?”
Son: “It was a little gooey.”

About himself, age 7
An assignment about using adjectives: “I’m small and I am stinky in the sun.”

Brains, age 7:
Son: “I was born before my brain!”
Me: “But you couldn’t talk when you were born.”
Son: “I had another brain that didn’t talk.
Me: “How did that happen?”
Son: “I was born and then another brain came to my head. Actually, I have a hundred brains because that brain has friends.”

Discovering the world, age 7:
“I’ve discovered the world and there are no werewolves.”

Time, age 8:
“A year is like a second. No, a year is like a million years!”

Bragging (or what adults call, “marketing”), age 8:
After watching a TV commercial in which people claim that they made the best chicken noodle soup: “Stop bragging, you guys! ‘Cause you’re just mean bragging about soup!”

Life, age 8:
“You know, I don’t want to have an ordinary life. I want to have an extraordinary life!”

What wild and surprising things have kids said to you?