Hui Aloha is an effort to call all of us back to aloha
the abiding sense of connection and "oneness" that is Hawaiʻi's gift to us all. In the frenzy of modern life, it is easy to lose sight of our interconnection, and to lose our capacity for openness, listening, and relationship-building that are essential to keeping our connection alive. Nowhere is this more evident than in our struggle to address homelessness as a community, with public discussions characterized by frustration, division, stereotypes, and dehumanization. The volunteers of Hui Aloha were looking for a way through the division and back to connection. We started by reaching out to houseless people and building relationships. Over the past two years, the effort has evolved to include:
partnering with houseless leaders to build or strengthen community within their camps
supporting the efforts of houseless people to address problems like litter, vandalism, and maintenance of public spaces where they live
establishing regular weekly beach and park cleanups as one form of service and community-building
supporting efforts to share personal stories that illustrate the diversity and humanity of houseless individuals
helping houseless leaders connect with neighbors, community associations, neighborhood boards, and elected leaders
inspiring and guiding houseless leaders with examples from Puʻuhonua O Waiʻanae, a self-organized village of more than 200 houseless people.
Through this work, we've learned that community-building starts with supporting efforts to take care of place and each other. We've learned that as community grows it provides the healing, hope, and purpose that all of us need to thrive. We've learned that building community can offer a better solution than creating new laws or programs, and that community is sometimes the only solution when institutions are failing. Finally, we've learned that it is often those with the least who engage in the greatest acts of aloha, providing examples for the rest of us to follow. We continually learn from the model of Puʻuhonua O Waiʻanae and by practicing community-building in our own lives and neighborhoods.
Aloha has no single translation, but one understanding was offered to us by Queen Lili‘uokalani after the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy:
“I could not turn back the time for the political change, but there is still time to save our heritage. You must remember never to cease to act because you fear you may fail. The way to lose any earthly kingdom is to be inflexible, intolerant, and prejudicial. Another way is to be too flexible, tolerant of too many wrongs, and without judgment at all. It is a razor’s edge. It is the width of a blade of pili grass. To gain the kingdom of heaven is to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen, and to know the unknowable – that is Aloha. All things in this world are two: in heaven there is but One.”
Another way to understand Aloha was given to us by Hawaii’s treasured kupuna, Auntie Pilahi Paki, who wrote,
“The Aloha Spirit is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the Self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. In the contemplation and presence of the life force, Aloha, the following unhi laula loa (free translation) may be used:
Photo: Hawai'i State Archives
A Akahai – meaning kindness (grace), to be expressed with tenderness;
L Lokahi – meaning unity (unbroken), to be expressed with harmony;
O ‘Olu‘olu – meaning agreeable (gentle), to be expressed with pleasantness;
H Ha‘aha‘a – meaning humility (empty), to be expressed with modesty;
A Ahonui – meaning patience (waiting for the moment), to be expressed with perseverance.
These are the traits of character that express the charm, warmth, and sincerity of Hawaii’s people. It was the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii. The world will turn to Hawaii as they search for world peace because Hawaii has the key…and that key is Aloha!”