Archive for the ‘Community’ category

Making kindness your new normal

November 13, 2018

She seemed a little tired, so I reached out and gave her a “kindness card.” I can’t remember what I wrote on it, but I remember the big smile on her face after she read it.

It was the best moment of my day.

It happened because I accepted the Greater Good Science Center’s kindness practice challenge. Instead of doing random acts of kindness, I would do five acts of kindness in one day. The idea was to promote kindness and boost my own happiness too.

Researchers believe that random acts of kindness make you feel happier because it makes you think more highly of yourself and become more aware of positive social interactions.

I did small acts of kindness, everyday kindness, like letting cards merge into the lane, opening a door for a senior, and volunteering extra hours at my workplace.

I also made a plan to share kindness in a deliberate way, not just random acts. I decided to create “kindness cards” that my organization could give out at a local expo. I would write a kindness card for them or give them a kindness card to give to others.

I wrote things thinks like, “You are beautiful, inside and out” and “You are stronger than you know” and “You are thoughtful and kind – keep smiling!”

That day of five kindnesses really brightened my whole week.

Today, November 13, is World Kindness Day. Let’s make kindness a normal part of our day, every day.

Here are seven ways to start making kindness the norm in your daily life, from the Kind Blog on RandomActsofKindness.org:

  1. Send an uplifting text to a friend or family member.
  2. Let that guy merge into traffic with a wave and a smile.
  3. Include intentional moments of kindness, laughter and delight in your daily routine.
  4. Go slightly out of our comfort zone at least once a day to make someone smile.
  5. Share a compliment with a co-worker or friend.
  6. Reach out to a family member you haven’t spoken to in a while.
  7. Treat someone to a cup of coffee (a friend, a stranger, or even yourself).

What acts of kindness do you treasure? How can you be kind today? How can you foster kindness in children?

Advertisements

How would you plan for climate change?

October 30, 2018

If you have the chance, attend one of the Climate Action Plan public meetings that are happening across Oahu. Sponsored by the City and County of Honolulu’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency, the community events focus on the impact of climate change and how we can become more resilient.

 

Hawaii will always face disasters. The neighborhoods that bounce back from disasters are the neighborhoods that know each other, chief resiliency officer Josh Stanbro said. It starts with us.

 

Most of the meeting is spent playing the Emissions Reduction Game.

 

The game is a way for community members to think about how we should build a clean economy. It asks us to think about the long-term – what needs to happen in 2025 and 2035 to reach our goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045. Where should Honolulu focus its resources? And just as important, what can we do to reduce our carbon footprint in Hawaii?

 

We gathered around tables set up with large “game boards” and placed strategy tiles on the board. For each of the target years, we had a limited number of projects that we could choose. The projects are all pre-selected, in five sectors: electricity, on-site energy, on-road, marine/off-road/waste, and aviation. The projects include Walk/Bike/Transit, Renewable Fuels, Building Energy Efficiency, Solar Farms, and Carbon Offsets. They are achievable and can successfully lower emissions.

 

The game encourages us to think strategically – the big picture, not the details. But it doesn’t take into account the City’s finances. So we didn’t consider project costs, either in direct costs (fees and taxes) or opportunity costs (projects that may not be funded).

 

We were supposed to think of our end goals, but I found myself wondering if we can afford to reach our goal by 2045. Are there cost-savings or crucial health and safety benefits from moving aggressively? Could a slightly longer time frame save us money and allow for new technologies to be tested that could help us reach our goal, making up for the time delay? I have to believe that the Resilience Office considered this, and felt that the 2045 target date is the most effective, efficient, and affordable choice.

 

One draw-back is that the projects were all pre-determined. There were no “write-in” tiles. We couldn’t suggest our own strategies or “jump ahead” to strategies that are only available in later years. For example, one strategy that was missing is limiting the number of people who can live in or visit Hawaii. This goes against the aloha spirit, could spell economic disaster, and may even be unconstitutional. But just as there are occupancy limits set by the Fire Code and a maximum capacity at Disneyland, limiting the number of people is an option.

 

In the end, what really struck me was realizing that we have the power to influence government. We can help government set priorities and policies, instead of waiting for government to tell us what to do. Whether it’s at a community meeting, public hearing, or our polling place, we just have to show up.

 

For more information about public meetings, community events, and resources, including a meeting about the City’s Multi-Hazard Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan on November 3, 2018, visit Resilient Oahu at http://www.resilientoahu.org.

Make a Difference Day in Hawaii

October 23, 2018

Make a Difference Day continues to engage communities through Points of Light, an organization dedicated to volunteer service. On October 27, 2018, thousands of people will make a choice to give back to their local community – in Hawaii and around the world.

There are so many ways we can make a difference – through donations, time, expertise, or kindness.

You can make a difference by volunteering on Oahu on October 27:

Volunteer to help cleanup in Chinatown in Honolulu (with American Savings Bank and Kupu Hawaii), in community cleanups at Pearl Harbor Bike Path in Aiea, Lehua Avenue in Pearl City (with PCP CPO A and Nimitz Lions Club), Waipahu Depot Street in Waipahu (with Lighthouse Outreach Center), Aiea Kai Way in Aiea (with ATG MidPac), Aiea Bay State Recreation Area in Aiea (with USS CHAFFE), Neal S. Blaisdell Park and Puuloa Springs in Aiea (with The Mission Continues), Pupuole Mini Park in Waipahu (with Inspire Church and Waipahu Community Coalition), Pūpūkea-Paumalū State Park Reserve in Haleiwa, and Waimea Valley in Waimea.

You can make a difference on the Big Island on October 27:

UH Hilo students can work on various projects for a campus and community service day in Hilo.

You can make a difference by volunteering on Oahu on October 28:

Volunteer to help community cleanups at Banyan Street in Kalihi (with OceanTroller) and Palolo Stream in Palolo (with Trees to Seas).

You can make a difference on Hawaii coasts year-round:

I just learned about a Clean Swell app that lets you track the opala you collect or start your own clean up at a beach near you.

You can make a difference by forgiving someone who has harmed you – including your younger self:

I’ve been reading a little about forgiveness, I’ve learned that forgiveness does not mean condoning their actions or absolving them of guilt. Forgiveness is about you – about accepting that the transgression happened, reducing your need for punishment, and trying to feel compassion for the offender’s suffering.

How will you make a difference in Hawaii and in your life?

DNA and a culture of diversity

October 9, 2018

In Hawaii, 24% of residents are a mix of two or more races (nearly one in four people), compared to 6.9% of the US adult population, according to a 2015 Pew Research report, “Multiracial in America.”

 

My family is a blend of heritages. Growing up in Hawaii, all of my friends were from mixed ethnic backgrounds too. I learned to focus on who people are, not what they look like.

 

I came to realize that, depending on who I was with, or whether I had a tan, people would perceive me in different ways. Walking with a Japan friend, some visitors have greeted in me in Japanese. Waiting with a Chinese friend, some people have talked to me in Chinese. (I don’t speak either language).

 

It gave me a kind of freedom in who I wanted to be, and which cultural traditions I choose to draw on.

 

In the past, my parents and I would sometimes speculate about our grandparents and great-grandparents, and try to do the math with percentages and blood quantum. It was like discussing sports statistics and betting odds (but a lot less intense).

 

Speculating about our heritage didn’t affect our family. I’m comfortable with who I am and I don’t need proof of where I came from. But one day, I found myself ordering a DNA kit from AncestryDNA.com. I was curious to see the results, and whether our idle speculation was on target.

 

One Sunday morning, I received the results of the DNA test. The results didn’t surprise me; the regional breakdown was about what I expected, though I hoped for more country-specific identification.

 

I didn’t feel any different about myself or my family.

 

A few days later, there was an update to my DNA results, based on more reference samples and addition regions. The regions were refined into estimated countries. This time, the refinement surprised me.

 

But I still didn’t feel any different about myself or my family.

 

Within a few generations from today, I think that most of the people living in urban areas will have mixed ethnic backgrounds. I don’t see it as losing a heritage; I see it as being connected to multiple heritages, and embracing a new culture of diversity.

 

If you have done a DNA test, how did you react to the results? Did it affect your self-identity? And for those who haven’t done a DNA test, what would make you consider it? What would you want to know about your ancestors?

Seniors and the next 20 years

October 2, 2018

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a telephone survey about the needs of seniors, conducted by Honolulu’s Elderly Affairs Division.

My responses were spontaneous, and after thinking about it a little more, I wouldn’t respond any differently. But I did think of more things I wish I could have said, so I decided to share my thoughts with you.

Here are the top three challenges that I think seniors face today:

Affordable housing. Oahu is addressing the lack of affordable housing, but we need even more affordable housing units that are built with seniors in mind – such as wider elevators, hallways, and doorways; walk-in showers; and clear signage in buildings.

I also think we need to change our expectations for senior living. One idea is to create ohana apartments, modeled on university dormitories. Two or three seniors or senior couples could live together in multi-bedroom units with a shared kitchen and living room. This could strengthen friendships, reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, and foster relationships where seniors give and receive care.

Affordable healthcare. In the two years I’ve worked in healthcare administration, I’ve seen big increases in co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles. Some clients have a co-pay of $40 or $45 per office visit (my own copayment is $50). We need more resources in place to help make healthcare affordable. I am strongly opposed to making our tax code more complicated; but, working with the tax system we have today, we could create a tax credit for healthcare providers who waive copayments for low-income seniors.

At some point, we simply need more reasonable limits on annual healthcare premium and copayment increases. The limits could be tied to the rate of inflation or Medicare benefits. In 2018, Affordable Care Act (ACA) rates increased by 19.8% for HMSA members and 24.1% for Kaiser Permanente Hawaii members, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. In comparison, consumer prices rose 2.7% over the twelve months from August 2017 to August 2018, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Mobility and transportation issues. Hawaii has a variety of services to help seniors with mobility and transportation issues, from TheHandi-Van and Uber rides, to Meals on Wheels and Project DANA, which provide services to the homebound.

I think we can do more a little more. We can encourage more healthcare providers to offer home visits for seniors. We can create a “technology in the home” program to help seniors set up computers, tablets, or phones for web conferencing.

And in the next 20 years? I think the biggest challenge will be keeping physically and mentally active. We need to keep fit, work longer, and volunteer more. There are so many ways to be active in the community, and we need better ways to share those opportunities with people of all ages.

For example, I recently learned about Senior Corps RSVP, a network for seniors who want to volunteer in the community. At the Hawaii Seniors’ Fair, I learned about a foster grandparents program to mentor children with special needs in schools. Volunteerism and maintaining strong connections to the community can help keep us healthy – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

What challenges do you or the seniors in your life face today? How do you envision your life in 20 years?

 

Artwork courtesy of All-Free-Download.com.

Ala Wai reimagined

September 11, 2018

I was excited to learn that we’re turning our attention to revitalizing the Ala Wai in Honolulu.

Ala Pono: An Ala Wai Crossing” is looking at the ways residents and visitors move between the neighborhoods of Waikīkī, Ala Moana, and McCully/ Mōʻiliʻili. The goal is to make our community safer and more convenient for people, bicyclists, and motor vehicles, including emergency personnel.

Pedestrian bridge. I can envision a pedestrian bridge spanning the Ala Wai. A beautifully arched white bridge, similar in architecture to the smaller bridges at Ala Moana Beach Park, could add a feeling of elegance and historic charm to the canal. Or a clear plexiglass bridge, an ala aopua‘a (cloud path), could connect land, water, and sky and create a sense of freedom and awe.

But the “Complete Streets” project wouldn’t be complete without reimagining the Ala Wai. As it is, the canal is minimally landscaped and functional. But it could be so much more.

Floating gardens. What if there were floating gardens along the canal? Aquatic plants could both beautify the canal and clean the water of carbon dioxide and algae.

Hanging gardens. What if we created hanging gardens, with trellises arching over parts of the canal or growing along canal walls? This could enhance the open spaces, create more privacy, and clean the air of carbon dioxide and pollutants.

Murals and sculptures. What if we built “art nooks” along pedestrian and bicycle pathways? By displaying the works of local Hawaii artists, we could give people a reason to leisurely walk or bike along the Ala Wai Canal, and something to talk about as they continue their journey.

Canoe rides. What if we created a student-run program to offer canoe rides between the Waikīkī Public Library and the Honolulu Convention Center? The canoe rides could include a cultural component with Hawaiian history or music and chant. While I am hesitant to suggest commercialization of the Ala Wai, this could offer an alternate method of transportation while giving high school students experience in business, management, and hospitality.

There are two public meetings this month at the Ala Wai Elementary School Cafeteria: on Saturday, September 22, 2018 at 1 pm and on Monday, September 24, 2018 at 6:30 pm. I encourage you to attend if you can, or share your ideas here and with Nicola Szibbo at nicola.szibbo@honolulu.gov.

Do you live, work, or go to school in Waikīkī? What can you envision for the Ala Wai?

Four small ways to give

September 4, 2018

We all want to make a difference.

There are so many worthwhile charities and nonprofits to choose from, but many of us don’t have a lot of money to donate. Or maybe we aren’t ready to make a commitment through a will or trust.

Every gift matters.

We don’t have to wait until we’re “successful” or have a lot of money to support a cause we feel passionate about.

You’ve probably heard of these ideas before, but here are four small ways to give that can have a big impact.

Loose change. We can start small, by collecting loose change in a piggy bank and writing the name of a nonprofit on it. There are also bank accounts, debit cards, and credit cards that will “round up” our purchases to the nearest dollar and transfer it into a savings account.

Birthday gifts. The older we get, the less we need – and the more we can buy for ourselves. Instead of buying a gift or throwing a party, ask family and friends to donate to your favorite charity or nonprofit. Some social media companies will help us create a birthday fundraiser, set a fundraising goal, and may even make a small contribution.

Matching donation fundraisers. One of the easiest ways to make our donations go further is to contribute to a matching donation campaign. In September, we could choose the Foodland Give Aloha Campaign, which matches each donation up to $250,00 for all organizations combined. If we shop at Foodland or Sak-n-Save, we can make donations right from the check-out line. Golfers and golf fans might like this one: In November through January, we could choose the Aloha for Hawaii Charities Campaign, through the Sony Open in Hawaii, which gives charities a “bonus boost” if they raise at least $1,000 in donations.

Changing beneficiaries. We can give a donation in the future, without committing to a specific dollar amount today. All we need to do is name a nonprofit as a beneficiary on a checking account, savings account, or retirement plan. We don’t need a lawyer, we don’t need to specify an amount, and we can change beneficiaries at any time.

How do you give back to our community? Which charities and nonprofits do you support – and why do you support them?