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Tag: giving and generosity



I was listening to a soon-to-be ex-tenant of mine ranting on about how the past two years of her life spent on a little island in the Pacific that the P.C. (Politically Correct) crowd touted as the dream place to live had been most unsatisfactory.

Her body held rigidly erect as she stood flat-footed on the ground, she had thrown down her bandana and was giving up.  “Going home,” she said.  “I’m going home.”

And then there was a truly heartfelt cry.  “Where’s the ah-low-haw?” she blared.

I thought back on our relationship of the past six months and could not even begin to explain to her that her habit of following Mark Twain’s snarky definition of the “Diplomacy Principle” – give one and take ten – might be at the heart of her difficulties in moving gracefully through the life here in the islands.

It got me to thinking on the issue of generosity and the dance of give-and-take that smooths the way for some folks here and frustrates the expectations and hopes of so many others.


There’s a lot of hoopla and hoo-hah about the concept of “aloha.”  Poetic metaphors and sappy slogans abound.

There have even been government-sponsored public relations campaigns aimed at mitigating what some smarty-pants see as a diminishing of an important “asset”….as if the whole thing is a commodity that can be bought and sold.

“Aloha” by Danielle Chang via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
These smarty-pants have tried to define “aloha” as “reciprocity.”  But that’s not really it.

The basic “reciprocity” thing is all about “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.”  That is not aloha.  That’s a trade agreement.   It could also be a pathway to collusion and conspiracy.  As a way of living it tends to get as clunky as a hula danced by a robot.


Old-style Hawaiians had a very different take on the generosity thing, it seems to me.

It begins with a concept:  ‘aina.  The word literally means, “that which feeds.”  It is also the word Hawaiians use for “land.”

The land here was bounteous and mostly kind.  It fed the people well, if the people took care of it.  If they took care of each other and shared what they had and what they produced with one another, life was good.  It’s an underlying mindset that is just one of the realities of island life, I think.

I’ve thought on it a bit.  Some folks say the Jewish kosher rules about food had a lot to do with dealing with food-spoilage.  Many of the dietary rules are practical and pragmatic and encourage the safe handling of food.  They were all developed before the advent of refrigeration.

The same holds true in the tropics.  Food spoils very quickly without refrigeration.

If you killed a pig, you threw a feast and shared the meat with everybody around because there really was no way to preserve it.  Three hundred pounds of rotting meat makes a mighty stink.

A tree that produced an abundance of fruit meant that you went looking for people to share in the bounty or faced a mountain of rotting fruit.  (It got problematic if all your neighbors had the same kinds of generous trees.)

A plentiful catch of fish could be dried, of course, for the times when the fish were scarce or the sea was rough, but the ocean is always there, and mostly it is kind to those skilled in the arts of caring for and gathering in the abundance.  There were always relatives and friends and other people who had no easy access to it and who would appreciate a taste of the sea.

Taro fields produced large quantities of food if the land was well-tended – much more than one extended farmer-family could consume.

“Taro and Valley” by Jen R via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
You gave away more than you kept.  Everybody did.  Hoarding makes no sense if all the treasures are perishable and have a short shelf-life.

And if your hands are free and your heart is open, well…the people around you tend to give things to you as well.  Why not?  They have more than enough their own selves.

It works better that way.

You  malama (care for) the land that feeds you and you malama the people around you because if the land and the people continue to prosper, so do you.  This is the hidden meaning, the kaona, in the word “aloha.”


This habit of sharing is ingrained in the island culture.  It’s pretty much unconscious, it seems.  You give and what goes around comes around.  It makes a circle of goodwill that is inclusive and that keeps expanding as more folks come and join in the dance.

 Immigrants came from many other places.  Many of them were worker-people brought in to toil in the fields of plantations, large and small.  They were poor folks and they knew about hard.  They also understood about having to depend on the goodwill of neighbors and strangers for their own survival.

The land was giving and the new people, too, joined in the circle of sharing that was already established, and so it went.  They survived and many of them thrived.

The sharing – the thing we call “aloha” — is not about giving with the expectation of getting back something from the person you gifted.  You give because you know that in the giving, somewhere down the line, when you need it, somebody else will be there to give you what you are needing.

It is about trusting that together we all can make an abundance that we can keep growing.

It is a hard thing to explain to others who see the whole dance as a zero-sum game, where the resources are limited so you have to grab as much as you can as fast as you can or you will end up with nothing.  It isn’t the same as “if you get more, I get less.”


I got to thinking about all this again when I ran across this video, “Molokai Words of Wisdom,” that was put together by Molokai filmmaker Matt Yamashita and his Quazifilms Media using snippets from other videos he’s made.

It holds the thoughts of a number of elders and passionate younger people who live on the island of Molokai, where I grew up.  Among other things it is an attempt to explain about what it means to “malama,” to care for the land and to care for each other.  It is most beautiful.

Matt was raised on Molokai and after receiving his BFA from Chapman University, he came home to become the island’s first professional filmmaker.  With a small budget and limited resources, he’s been producing hit-the-heart documentaries and videos since 2001.

His list of clients reads like a who’s who of folks who are working on preserving the ancient  wisdoms.  Among them have been the Polynesian Voyaging Society, OiwiTV, University of Hawaii, Queen Liliu’okalani Children’s Center, Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission, Pacific Islander’s in Communication, First Nations Development Institute, Departure Films, Notional, Gaia, Sacred Lands Film Project, Mill Valley Film Group, Protect Kaho’olawe ‘Ohana, Honua Consulting, Pacific American Foundation, Hui Ho’oniho, Tau Dance Theater, Edith Kanaka’ole Foundation, Hui Ho’opakele ‘Aina, Na Pu’uwai Native Hawaiian Health Systems, Molokai Community Health Center, Ala Wai Watershed Association.

The list also includes assorted government and media groups like Maui County AHEC, Hawaii State Department of Health, Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii State Department of Agriculture, and KITV, KHON, KGMB, and KHNL news stations.

Check out his other videos on his You-Tube channel.  They are amazing….

Here’s a poem:


It’s said we are all

By our history defined.

All the people before us,

The panoply they made,

The great and winding parade,

Continues onward, onward in us.


Some say we are doomed

To repeat the mistakes of

All the ones who’ve gone before.

Others say we will transcend

The Was and do another thing

That never before was seen.


I’m not sure that either side

Has the right of it.

I say we will do what we do as we do it,

Just like those ones of old,

And in the tomorrows before us

The consequences will inexorably unfold.


Let us pray those consequences

Are good ones….

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture:  “Sharing” by Josh Harper via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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PRODUCT (Book)THE GO-GIVER:  A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea

AUTHORS:  Bob Burg and John David Mann

PUBLISHER:  Portfolio/Penguin [2007, 2015]


Parables are a story-telling format used since ancient times to impart wisdoms for living.  It’s a cool way to present big concepts without lecturing.

Religious leaders and philosophers are not the only ones who have made use of parables to great effect.  In more recent times a number of scientists and business thought leaders have tapped into the power of the parable.

Some of the more noteworthy of the latter include:


One reviewer at “Retailing Insight” described THE GO-GIVER as a cross between JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL and THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE and went on to praise it as “an uplifting quick read of a book that will appeal to consumers who want to bring more heart and a holistic sense of mission to their livelihoods.”

Here’s a YouTube video, “A Quick and Really Fun Overview of the Go-Giver” by one of the authors, Bob Burg:

Mann and Burg present one simple, old idea:  “Give and you shall receive.”  In their parable, a frustrated up-and-coming go-getter named Joe seeks out a remarkable man named Pindar who agrees to tell Joe the “secret” to a successful life.  It will take five meetings spread over five consecutive days, he says.

The only condition Pindar imposes is that Joe has to apply this new knowledge to his own life in a practical way before meeting with Pindar for the next lesson.

After the book came out in 2007, the authors started hearing from people around the world who had enthusiastically embraced the concepts they presented in the book.  Book clubs read the book and pondered on the ideas.  Study groups and workshops organized by businesses, houses of worship and community groups sprang up.  Folks really liked the message.

The authors co-wrote a couple of companion books, GO-GIVERS SELL MORE and THE GO-GIVER LEADER.  They even started a website to answer questions and continue the still-ongoing discussions about all this.

THE GO-GIVER is now called “a classic,” and the latest edition is an expanded version.


Pindar’s “Laws of Stratospheric Success” are simple.  Their nuances and ramifications are large.

THE LAW OF VALUE.  Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.

THE LAW OF COMPENSATION.  Your income is determined by how many people you serve them.

THE LAW OF INFLUENCE.  Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.

THE LAW OF AUTHENTICITY.  The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.

THE LAW OF RECEPTIVITY.  The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

Reading those statements without the parable probably has you going, “Yeah…so?”  You know, gut-deep, that these “laws” are very old human truths.  You’ve probably even gotten a lecture or two on one or more of them in your life.

Maybe you dismissed them as idealistic gassing that melts like snow in the heat of the “real world.”  You are likely to agree they’re really good ideas, but somehow you doubt that they’re effective in modern life.

What you might want to look at more thoroughly are the premises on which these laws are based as well as the effects following the laws potentially might have.  That’s all in the story.

The authors and the people who’ve tried to practice these principles say the laws work in all the various facets of human interaction – in relationships (family, friends, and business dealings), in self-development and in developing businesses and community.


Go get THE GO-GIVER.  Read it.  Think on it.  Do it.  That plan has apparently worked for hundreds of thousands of other people.  Maybe they’ll work for you too.

Here’s a poem written for a brilliant young student of an old Hawaiian master musician who died. Listening to the young man evokes memories of the stylings of his old teacher and those of us who knew him can hear the old one playing along.  (The word “mana’o” is Hawaiian for “knowledge.”  “Mahalo” is Hawaiian for “thank you.”)



Of all the ones he ever touched,

Of all the ones he tried to reach,


You heard him.


The core of him was in his giving,

The mana’o that he had to share.


You heard him.


On his work, he poured his passion,

And with open hands he offered it

To any who would stop to listen.


You heard him.


In his heart he understood, he knew,

That love and knowledge, hoarded, dies.


You heard him.


Our people died, their gifts unopened

By uncaring ones who could not hear,

Who only saw the surface treasures

And not the Spirit-beauty there.


You heard him.


His heart was drowning in deepest sorrow

For the death and dying of our people

And the beauty they would have shared.


You heard him.


And you try now, in your own way,

To keep your hands out and open,

Full of love, full of reverence for the ways of the old ones,

And, willingly, you try to share.


You heard him.


The gift he had, his greatest treasure,

Because you heard, lives on in you.


You heard him.


by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  (book) via

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