OPERATIONS MANAGER AND CULTURAL ADVISOR AT KĀ‘ANAPALI ALI‘I
“My dad passed away when I was 5. My mom took care of four boys. We were living in low-income housing on O‘ahu. We were poor. But my mom, she’s full of love. She was full of taking care of people. So when we became older, my mom decided to foster kids. From 1983 to 2016, in our home, in our little apartment, she took care of 83 kids.
So that’s how we grew up. My mom just took care of all of us. And I think that’s why I have that spirit of caring and aloha and making sure everything is right. When helping people, I don’t expect anything back. I just help people. Being pono (righteous), it’s so big for me. I cannot explain it. You got to show it. You got to believe in it. I don’t like to say we’re special in Hawai‘i, but we are because we’re pono.
On this island, we treat people differently. You can come in with an attitude, and then guess what? Not going to work. Because we’re going to kill you with kindness. Leave your ego and pride at the door, and just receive. That’s what I like to tell people. Just observe. Be quiet and still, and then you’ll figure out how to be pono once you have that way of receiving.
It’s on you to be pono. You need to make that shift. You need to make that choice. I’m going to feel bad or I’m going to feel good. That’s the choice. Pick good. Plant that seed of good. Water it with good. And you’ll get a good harvest.
That’s why I started sharing my cleansing. It’s something that’s really important to me. I’ve shared it since 2010, but I’ve been practicing it spiritually for 35 years. Every January 1, we do a first light e ala e (cleansing) chant on the beach. It’s a cleansing of your spirit. We start at 4:30 a.m. to chant and greet the sun. And it’s not about resolutions. You just release your energy or negativity that’s not benefiting your soul, your spiritual soul, or your beliefs. Let that all go to the horizon. That’s the purpose of e ala e.
I tell people, ‘Start on gratitude, forgiveness, then inspiration. Take your own time; it’s on your own pace. Think of all the things you’re grateful for. Take as long as you want. And then when you’re ready, when you’re in the water, release all the bad negativity. Whatever you’ve experienced, release it and believe it. Take a deep breath, submerge and just blow it out as fast as you can like an explosion.’ When you get up, it’s the craziest. It’s so powerful. When people come out of the water, there’s a different mindset.
Then I tell them the meaning of the chant and the purpose of cleansing. And it’s not me cleansing you. I’m just the vessel. I’m just the connection. You receive whatever you can, however you interpret it. Some people say, ‘What are you doing sharing something so sacred?’ And I say, ‘I’m not charging for it. I am more concerned with people’s well-being. I am being there for them.’
There’s this one guy I still remember. It was his first time to Maui. At the end of the chant he came to me crying. He said he lost the three most important women in his life in six months: his wife, his mom, his grandma. And he says, ‘You know what? Our grieving is done.’And then everybody around us started crying. I said, ‘You know, now that you believe your grieving is done, live life with gratitude and just inspire people to be good. Show the love and life is going to be grand.’
When visitors come to Hawai’i, they’re here to enjoy. And we’re part of that formula. But my dream that I would like to see happen is on every flight, every airline, you learn something. Before you land, you learn about Hawaiian culture. I see that happening, and it should be in a fun way. I’d like to tell visitors, ‘When you get off the plane, the first thing you do, is take a deep breath. Close your eyes, feel what you’re going to experience. Then worry about your trip, your car, your hotel. You landed here safely.‘You’re going to have a lifetime of memories. Show a lot of gratitude. Just be happy. Take it easy and relax. That’s how we do it here.’ ”