Let me be one of the first to wish you Happy New Year. Each year I’ve sent a greeting a greeting that tells about New Year practices from some place around the world. The places I’ve highlighted in the past included Iceland, Norway, El Salvador (Mayan), China, South Africa & Japan. However, I’ve not shared about the place I live – Hawai’i. With the social & cultural turmoil of 2015, it might be a good time to do so.
Hawai’i is my adopted home. Hence the customs & their meanings are what I have slowly absorbed over 30 years. Hawai’i is a marvelous mixture of Hawai’ian, Pacific Islander, Asian, European, African, Hispanic, & North American peoples. As an adopted son of the land, I have learned my “malihini” (new comer) version of the customs. The “kama’aina” (children of the land) could describe better what they really mean. Here there is no dominant race or culture. So what I’ve experienced is that people are all mixed together. As a consequence we have learned to embrace, adopt & relish everyone’s customs. New Year celebrations become a hodgepodge of all cultural practices — house cleaning, fireworks, mochi, sashimi (raw fish), poi, hula, imbibing (beer is universal), football, religious celebrations (Jewish, Buddhist, Christian & new religions) & meals with every culture’s favorite foods. People say we do it all to build community, live in harmony (lokahi), appreciate (ho’omaika’i) diversity & to try to quell our urges that hold onto prejudices & beliefs that keep us separated. Hanging onto negative impulses is called the “dark side of Aloha.” Unfortunately we sometimes fail & live on the dark side (Star Wars). But generally we try to get it right & live aloha. We attempt to accept other’s way of being as much as we do our own culture, religion & race. It is believed it is important to honor & respect all people & cultures as they are. New Year means that hopefully the dark of the last year is set aside & we start anew to be the children of the land.
After this past year of shootings, domestic violence, war, refugee migrations, ebola outbreaks & climatic disasters, a little aloha might be worth a try. Political bullying, ineffectual governments, failed human service systems & rampant self-interest have all contributed to the dark side of life. I hope in the New Year we take a lesson from our Polynesian ancestors & the Hawai’ians of today who believe the New Year to be a healing time that lets us embrace the uniqueness of all people.
In the next days & weeks, I hope you take time to connect with family, friends & CPE colleagues to set the tone for a healthy, happy & prosperous New Year. May it be a time to remember what our many sacred texts always tell us, namely we are to be peacemakers, bringers of justice & models for mercy to everyone. That charge applies to us as “kama’aina” (children of the land — of this planet) & to us as educators & religious leaders.
Our new ACPE Mission Statement says we are, “A community of professionals committed to the sacred through experiential, transformational education & spiritual care.” That’s a lofty enough purpose to call us to conceive new models of education & to be exemplary professional leaders.
As we begin another year of service & education, may we find strength in our colleagues & support in their encouragement. May we dream dreams that transform lives that help people discover a calling to meaningful service & purposeful careers. May we learn to “live aloha” that brings healing & hope to a struggling world.
Thank you for the past year. I look forward to another year in our Region & ACPE.
Hau’oli Makahiki Hou (Happy New Year). Aloha Nui– John