Archive for the ‘Community’ category

A reason to reconnect

May 26, 2020

COVID-19 is keeping us apart, and it is also bringing us closer together.


Children are leaving messages of aloha on sidewalks, creating mahalo posters, and brain-storming about how they can raise money to distribute face masks and food to people who need them. We’re starting lemonade stands and fundraising for first responders.


People who are still employed and still working may feel more gratitude for their jobs, and may receive gratitude from others who appreciate the work they are doing. We’re thanking each other more, practicing patience, and showing more courtesy.


Families are writing, emailing, Skyping, Zooming, FaceTiming, and Duoing family members and friends to check in, check up, and share information. We’re sharing resources for face masks and, if we’re going to the store, asking if there’s anything they need.


State and local governments are hosting more information briefings and sharing more information online. We’re learning about who is leading, who is taking action, and who we can trust.


Businesses are communicating more than ever, telling us how they are keeping us safe and their employees safe. We’re focusing on customers and employees, and working together to share best practices.


Places of worship are reaching out to people who may stopped attending services or gatherings, and welcoming more people to their online services. We’re reflecting more on what is important to us, and sometimes we’re re-connecting with a faith that sustains us.


Social services organizations and nonprofits are reaching out to people they may not have served before. We’re reaching beyond current customers and expanding our missions.


Are keeping in touch with people more frequently? Have you reached out to someone you lost touch with? How are you strengthening your family and social connections?

You are essential

April 7, 2020

In these challenging times, I am grateful to all of you who provide essential services, goods, and operations. You keep us safe and healthy.

And I am thankful to all of you who are staying at home. Though you may not be able to work right now, I believe that

We may be stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed, but please know this:

You are essential.

You brighten our days and lighten our hearts.

You protect us, heal us, and ease our paths.

You keep us in business and on track.

You make us look good and feel good.

You keep us entertained and informed.

You help us become our best selves.

You are essential.


Take good care of yourself and each other.

Asking what the world needs

March 3, 2020

In 130 seconds, Daniel Pink and author Tom Rath gave me a new perspective on a question I’ve been struggling with for two years.

This was my dilemma: When I started working at a local nonprofit, I didn’t have any experience with the mental health field.

I took one psychology class in college. I didn’t have a lot of experience with therapy, mental illness, or healthcare in general. And I felt like someone else could do things better.

Added to that was the knowledge that this job wasn’t where I wanted to be.

There’s a big emphasis on following your passion in life and work, in finding what you would do even if you weren’t getting paid to do it. My passions were taking me towards writing, art, and education.

Daniel Pink’s Pinkcast 3.18, “This is the most important question to ask yourself” with Tom Rath, turned everything around.

Asking yourself “What’s my passion?” puts yourself at the center of the world, said Rath, author of “Life’s Great Question: Discover How You Contribute to the World” (2020).

The better question is, “What’s my greatest contribution?” When you start with what the people around you need, you can work back to who you are and your natural talents, and you’re focused on doing something that makes a real difference.

All night, I kept thinking about what I can contribute to the world.

There are many other people more knowledgeable about mental health and more experienced about healthcare administration. But I can help this nonprofit make a difference in Hawaii today.

It made me realize that maybe I’m exactly where I need to be – where I am needed.

What can you contribute to your neighborhood, to Hawaii, and to the world? What does the world need from you?

Learning about compassion fatigue

February 4, 2020

I work at a nonprofit counseling center, and I talk to clients almost every day. People share their stories with me, and sometimes they really touch my heart. Later, there are times I feel anxious and even have trouble sleeping at night because I’m worried about them.

At an interactive workshop with Elizabeth Kent, an experienced mediator and proprietor of Meeting Expectations Hawaii, I learned that there’s a name for the anxiety I sometimes feel: “vicarious trauma” or “compassion fatigue.”

It’s not stress. It’s not burnout. There are interpersonal, emotional, physical, cognitive, and spiritual symptoms of compassion fatigue.

This can happen with first responders, social service workers, caregivers, family and friends, and judges who are affected by the trauma that someone else experienced or witnessed.

In fact, Kent’s interactive workshop, shared at a Kokua Mau meeting, was adapted from a presentation by Judge Michael Town (retired), who presided over contested divorce and family cases in Hawaii.

I learned that some people are more susceptible to compassion fatigue, such as people who have unrealistic views, people who are domestic abuse survivors, people who are very compassionate, and people who cope with distressing situations where children are involved.

There are many strategies to help us prevent and cope with compassion fatigue, such as communicating our feelings with someone who listens to us, using active optimism to reframe our experiences, keeping boundaries between work and life, and keeping things in perspective by refusing to “catastrophize” things (I love this new word!).

Kent encouraged us to create our own resiliency plan, focusing on ABC – Awareness, Balance, and Connection.

Awareness. What are your personal warning signs? For me, it’s anxiety, difficulty concentrating on work after talking with someone who shared their story, and trouble sleeping.

Balance. What can you do for your own resilience? At work, I can take a short break or check the mail. At home, I can read a good book or plan something fun for the weekend.

Connection.  What strategies can you follow to improve your office environment and lessen the impact of compassion fatigue? This one is a little harder, but we already started a “gratitude journal” in the office to remind us of good things, and I want to invite a speaker who can talk to us about resiliency at one of our staff meetings.

Do you work with or care for people who have experienced trauma? How do you take care of yourself?


Elizabeth Kent ( offers mediation, facilitation, and training to prevent and resolve disputes. Kōkua Mau ( provides accurate information on advance care planning (ACP), hospice and palliative care.

Celebrating 10 years of Better Hawaii

January 7, 2020

Better Hawaii is written for you.

And because of you, Better Hawaii celebrated 10 years of ideas, reflections, and commentary about making Hawaii and ourselves a little better.

In Better Hawaii, I focused more on personal wellness and education. I decided to make a few changes, like ending the monthly book reviews, because they started to feel less enjoyable and more of an obligation. And I continue to be committed to writing with optimism, respect, and a focus on solutions.

Since starting Better Hawaii in 2010, there are three values that have helped me keep blogging.

Commitment. Set a reasonable, achievable goal, and stick with it. I know you’re busy and your inbox is full, so I write one post a week, and try to keep it short – which often takes me longer to write than a longer piece.

Courage. Share your opinions confidently, and acknowledge that most people have good intentions, even when they disagree with your point of view.

Courtesy. Be positive and respectful in all of your communications, both online and in person. And be considerate of your time, keeping posts short and easy to read.

Blogger Paul Jarvis got it exactly right in his post, “I’d rather be a blogger” – “Content on the internet currently is designed for scale, for sharing, for the masses. This runs counter to blogging, which is for a specific niche, a specific group, a specific interest a few people might have.”

I don’t write Better Hawaii to grow the number of followers or gain the most “likes.” I write because I want to offer something optimistic and thoughtful in your day. If just one person makes a positive change in their life, it’s worth it.

Thank you for your encouragement, your comments, and being open to different points of view.