By Virginia Beck

Hanai sisters Tiallah Mortell and Halli Holmgren are best friends who are often mistaken as blood sisters. They don’t mind; they know they are each others’ ‘ohana.

A jewel of the Pacific, Kaua‘i is also the peak of a huge mountain. Rising some 17,000 feet from the sea floor, Kaua‘i is nearly as tall as Mount Denali. We perch our homes and resorts atop one of the older, dormant volcanoes in the Hawaiian chain.

For a small place, we are rich in resources. While imported material things may be harder to find, our real wealth is all around us. From the incredible span of ocean horizon, countless waves falling on our splendid beaches, mountain vistas, waterfalls, botanical treasures, (including four botanical gardens), the real beauty is shining in the faces of our people.

These living treasures are the heart of our community, our real wealth. Kaua‘i is built entirely on its ‘ohana system. ‘Ohana means family, relations, and extended families. It once was described, as everyone you would allow to dip their hand into the communal food bowls.

‘Ohana is the web of relationships, sometimes a work group; or our birth family; or the family that adopted us. Community is grounded in the lineage of our birth families, but also includes all our relatives, in-laws, and adopted children.

Included are the “hanai” children, those who are born to one member of the family, but often given to other members to raise.

When a baby is born, its mother is the most important. Soon, the child is quickly embraced, kissed, hugged, and passed to all the other family members to bless and love. In some cultures, a child barely touches the floor before it is scooped up into another set of arms.

From this beginning, comes belonging and trust, that comes from the bones, this sense of ‘ohana. One is never alone, always loved and supported. With love comes responsibility, respect, and a sense of duty that is an honor, not an obligation. ‘Ohana holds us together when opinions take us apart. Forgiveness comes with apologies and reparations, making the family ‘ohana run smoothly again.

When I first started attending birthday luaus, wedding receptions, and graduation parties, I was shocked to see hundreds of people. As many as 200-500, and they were all relatives!! No wonder it takes 50-100 people to get the event ready!

Recently, a friend shared that they had gotten a new roof for their house. 12 invited friends and relatives, plus four, “who just heard it was happening,” grabbed their tools showed up for a work weekend!

“Now I understand why my husband grabs his tool belt and disappears one day a month”, she laughed. ‘Ohana!

Sharing work, tools, and skills, local folks enrich their lives. One shares his boat trailer with others. Another loans a tent and generator for camping. Another helps with car repairs or painting. Net fishing? Need more hands.

Virginia Beck

Our local economy is based on sharing. Generosity must have been born in the tropics.

You can’t keep ripe bananas or papayas for long. Mangoes will plop into the dust for chickens and mynahs to attack. Fish is best fresh, so share it.

Generosity is energy given to us, and we must also return it to the community in some way, or the Spirit of Aloha will spoil inside us.

Our finest treasures, our children and our smiles, must all be given away to prosper others.

Share the Aloha.

  • Virginia Beck, NP and Certified Trager® Practitioner, offers Wellness Consultation, Trager Psychophysical Integration and teaches Malama Birth Training classes. She can be reached at 635-5618.

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