Learning to Live Aloha

One reason I love to travel is to learn about other cultures. This was never more true than when I (Judy) visited Hawaii for the first time earlier this year.

 The sun sets in Kauai (photo by Ann Hettinger).

The sun sets in Kauai (photo by Ann Hettinger).

I traveled to Kauai, which is called the Garden Island. I knew it would be beautiful and green and lush. I didn’t know the people there would remind me of the importance of love, kindness, respect, compassion, friendliness and so much more. All that is wrapped up in the word “Aloha.” In my naivete, I had thought Aloha meant hello and goodbye. Everywhere I went in Kauai, I learned it really means a way of life.

 Ann Hettinger, paddling her one-man outrigger canoe, is the co-author of a book about the meaning of Aloha.

Ann Hettinger, paddling her one-man outrigger canoe, is the co-author of a book about the meaning of Aloha.

Two of my teachers in this were Ann Hettinger and Lahela Chandler Correa, who have co-authored a book for children about the many meanings of Aloha.

 Hawaii is beautiful; the Aloha way of life even more so.

Hawaii is beautiful; the Aloha way of life even more so.

When I was on Kauai, I was fortunate to swim, surf, and stand-up paddleboard. Almost everyday was a new adventure in the ocean or on a river. My fellow travelers and I managed to do all that and more thanks to Ann, who leads adventure retreats for women, even though Kauai was receiving unusual amounts of rain for unusual lengths of time. We also got to hear Lahela, who was born and raised on the island, explain what her parents taught her about Aloha (taking care of family, being honest and kind, respecting their heritage and their elders, etc. etc.). It was a heartfelt lesson delivered in love and with the hope that we would carry it with us when we left the island.

It always rains a lot on Kauai – Mount Waialeale is one of the wettest places on Earth, receiving nearly 400 inches of rain a year. Kauai wouldn’t be as fertile and as stunningly beautiful as it is if it didn’t receive a lot of rain. But a couple of weeks after I left Kauai, the unusual amounts of rain the island had been experiencing turned into disastrous amounts. In a 24-hour period, the famed North Shore received more than 30 inches of rain. The torrential rainfall flooded homes, caused mudslides that buried vehicles and closed roads, and led to the evacuation of hundreds of people. Children at a school who had been learning about Aloha from Ann and Lahela’s book decided to show their Aloha by sending cards and other items to kids affected by the flooding – helping others and demonstrating how to “live Aloha.”

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I share this story in the spirit of Aloha. To learn more about Ann and Lahela’s book, go to alohapublishinghawaii.com or click here. To learn more about how to help Kauai residents affected by the flooding, the website hawaiinewsnow.com lists several organizations accepting donations.                      -post by JG