“From the blackened, silent, barren landscape left by the desolation of lava flow emerges the lehua, flower of the ‘ohi’a…

We decided to agree upon a set of twelve actions that we would each take, and encourage others to take. In committing to this, we believed we could begin to create the kind of community we value.

We do not have any minimum commitments.

Expressions of Aloha Art Contest

Next year, Live Aloha will be celebrating 30 years of supporting the practice of aloha. A lot has changed since we began our work in 1993. The first annual Expressions of Aloha Art Contest, sponsored by Live Aloha, invites Hawaii students from preschool to high school to create art that shares how they feel aloha in their lives today.

Artwork by Olivia

The Twelve Commitments

We decided to agree upon a set of twelve actions that we would each take, and encourage others to take. In committing to this, we believed we could begin to create the kind of community we value

Hold the door. Hold the elevator.

It’s a common courtesy, holding the door for the person coming after you or leaving as you come in. One of the earliest courtesies taught by our parents, and one of the most observed acts of courtesy we see every day.’

Elevators add another opportunity for such courtesy, either using the “Door Open” button or holding an arm or hand across the doors.

And part of this courtesy is its normal limit. If the person coming to the door or elevator is still twenty feet away or so, it’s socially acceptable to let go of the door or allow the elevator door to close. But why not on occasion stretch the “rules” a little. Especially if you’re by yourself in the elevator or there’s no one behind you at the door, in other words if you’re not inconveniencing others, hold it longer and wait for that person.

The point is to enjoy the moment of shared presence and activity. It’s not profound, it’s small and human, ordinary, and a little extraordinary at the same time.

Pick up litter.

If we’re walking along and we see litter on the ground in front of us, what’s the proper response? At one level we could understandably say, “We didn’t leave that litter there, so it’s not our problem.” Mālama ‘aina would ask us to think that at that moment the “universe” is the land, the litter, and us. The land is in essence burdened or hurt by that litter but cannot act to remove it. The litter cannot remove itself. We can. So if we love the land our first instinct should be to remove that burden or hurt.

Our responsibility is to act so as to heal and make right. Mālama ‘aina, care for the land, pick up litter.

Respect your elders and children.

We’ve all seen an older person cross a street slowly, perhaps with a walker, and it doesn’t look like they will make it across in the time allotted by the traffic signals. We can see the faces of the drivers watching this and clearly thinking, Can’t he hurry it up! Why not walk with them, maybe even from the very beginning, and just talk with them as if nothing else was happening.

When we were young, we were taught to give our seat on the bus to older people if they got on and couldn’t find a seat. We need to carry that sense through in every aspect of life. Be patient, be supportive, and be kind. And remember that we will (hopefully) live long enough that we may be in that position ourselves.

Drive with courtesy. Let others in.

In the traffic environment we live in today, this is a tough one for lots of many of us. We feel frustrated when cars swoop in from other lanes to “cut in line.” It can feel unfair. For some of us, it results in driving so close to the car in front that it is difficult for others to “cut” in front. If this sounds familiar, try to make an effort to intentionally let someone in on your next drive. The tension we feel, the unhappiness, even the anger, falls entirely on ourselves. And we are the primary beneficiaries of not allowing ourselves to get angry, or of letting go of it quickly. So give the gift of place in line, and let all the rest of it go.

Plant something.

In a world increasingly dominated by steel, concrete, and asphalt, the natural world and all things green get moved aside or confined to little areas. Where it does not exist, make it. Even a garden box by the window, a plant on the deck or a little garden in our backyard makes the green possible.Green growth is critical to counterbalancing the greenhouse gas impact of modern living. You may say that one plant won’t make a difference, but if millions of us each plant one thing, it’s not small and it will make a difference.  

Create smiles.

There was a very popular T-shirt that had a big yellow circle representing a head with a small face and sometimes the word “smile” on it. The message was essentially to be pleasant to others as a way of being. An excellent thought and a good message.We wanted to take it up a notch, to make it our business to put a smile on someone else’s face, not just have one on our own. Can we make it our goal to have people leave a conversation between us with a smile on their faces, to end the conversations or interactions with us on a pleasant note? Often just our own smiling will do that.“Create smiles” is all about caring about the other person, not just about ourselves – caring about the community we create around us.

Get out and enjoy nature.

Many of us essentially live indoors. From our homes to our cars to our offices (all too often sealed and air conditioned) back to our cars and back to our homes. With stops at stores in between.Much of the air we breathe is artificial, much of it essentially “recycled” and much of it quite unhealthy for us. Go for a hike; there are lots of good well-marked and safe trails. Go to the parks and gardens, many of which are extremely well tended to allow you to enjoy nature in forms that are quite extraordinary.

Attend an event of another culture.

Preserving and respecting a full diversity of cultures make us stronger as a community. That’s best done by making sure we’re exposed to other cultures in a real way. And one of the best ways is to attend events that celebrate and demonstrate aspects of their culture.Most major cultural events are shared through the local news or online and are not only open to the public – they usually welcome members of the public. Go! Walk around, eat the food, listen to the sounds, and look at the facets of their culture that are celebrated.  It’s hard not to see beauty in the celebration of a culture and then it’s much easier to be truly respectful of that culture going forward. You might even find yourself attending on a regular basis.An often-surprising result is that you find people whom you’ve known for years and had never associated with that culture. It gives you a much deeper and richer view of them as people.

Share with your neighbors.

One of the most frequent complaints we hear these days is that we just don’t know our neighbors or that it’s not like the good old days when we all knew each other and watched out for each other.If you haven’t already done so, go knock on a few doors and introduce yourself. Wave at each other when you pass, whether walking by or driving by. Friendly recognition builds relationships. When you have fruit on your trees or food in your garden, share it. If you wind up with extra of anything, consider sharing your good fortune with your neighbors. Sharing is the best way to start building or rebuilding a neighborhood because it begins with a gift by you in whatever large or small form you make it.

Return your shopping carts.

When someone goes to the store and uses a shopping cart to bring their purchases back to their car, they then have a choice: take the cart to a designated collection area or leave it in the stall. When you take it back to a collection point and leave it for the next person to use or to be collected by the store, you’re following the same admonition we got as little children: take your toys out of the sandbox or play area and put them back where you got them from.As with other actions or lack of action, not returning shopping carts creates a bad example for anyone watching, especially children. If you just leave the cart in the stall or next to it, what you’re saying is that once I use something I have no responsibility to put it back in place. I can just dump it for someone else to clean up or put away.Our behaviors and attitudes should be consistent, whether we’re engaged in a big important task or a small everyday task.

Leave places better than you find them.

Our path through life should be one of service; to our families, to those we work and play with or to the community and world in which we live. Our intent should be to make things better in small and big ways, all the time.Maybe this is the one that sums it all up, whether you’re talking about the place you picnic, or a job you have or at the end of it all, your life. Assuming that at the time of your passing you had the opportunity to assess your life, I believe the right questions to ask yourself would be, “Was the world better off, even in small ways, for your having lived in it?” If the answer is yes, you have lived aloha.

Make a list of your own.

These twelve actions are meant to embody a set of attitudes and perspectives to bring the philosophy of aloha to life, and improve the life of our community. Committing to these actions is a discipline.But you should not simply accept our list without considering what matters to you and what actions you believe are most important in your community. Reflect on what is already there, then add their own set of actions as well.

Request a bumper sticker

Our list of actions is only a starting point. We encourage you to add your own commitments to your community to the list.

Once you’ve made your list, we encourage you to request a free Live Aloha bumper sticker or round sticker. These stickers serve as a public declaration of commitment. Then, start doing the actions and watch the results.

You don’t have to be a politician.
Or the president of a company.
Or a famous doctor,
To make everyone’s life better.
Sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference.