What Does Aloha Mean When Tragedy Strikes?


When tragedy strikes, follow the Hawai'ian teachings of ALOHA.

I'm writing this as the wildfires on Maui in Lahaina have just left their path of destruction, with over 1000 people still missing and hundreds of people injured or dead....

Other parts of the Hawaiian islands are still raging.

(As they are in Spain, Canada, Greece, and around the globe.)

I grew up on Oahu, in Honolulu, Hawai'i .

After graduating from the University of Hawai'i, my first' big' job was as the Sports and Fitness Director for American Hawaii Cruises.

I sailed on the S.S. Independence around the Hawaiian islands on weekly cruises for two years.

Lahiana, Maui Waterfront

Lahaina, Maui Waterfront

We landed in Kahului port on Thursday each week, where the ship docked overnight.

We left Maui on Friday afternoons.

These two days gave us plenty of time to explore the island, many times going 'all the way' to Lahaina!

Each island is similar, yet with its own characteristic and flavor.

(I left the islands at 25, moving to San Francisco to start SeaFit Tours, the first international fitness cruise company!)


We integrated Hawaiian traditional culture and values on these cruises. These classic ships retained much of the old missionary style with traditional Hawaiian added.

The most simple but one of the most profound ways we shared ALOHA was in giving lei and in how we greeted the crew, staff, and passengers. 

Many people know that saying "aloha" means love, hello, and goodbye, but the profound meaning of aloha is even deeper.

Aloha literally means “the presence of breath.”

"Ha" means 'breath'. (Lifeforce)

Although the strong winds fanned the wildfires in Hawaii, the breath (wind) that Aloha refers to signifies the community spirit among all the people.

SS Independence, American Hawaii Cruises

SS Independence, American Hawaii Cruises. circa 1980

Love, Peace, and Compassion are so Strong -- It's The Law!

I'm pasting this from Chapter 5 of Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes:

§ 5-7.5 "Aloha Spirit". 
(a) "Aloha Spirit" is the coordination of mind and heart within each person.
It brings each person to the self.
Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. 

In the contemplation and presence of the life force, "Aloha", the following unuhi laulā loa may be used:
           A.  "Akahai", meaning kindness to be expressed with tenderness;
           L.  "Lōkahi", meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony;
           O. "ʻOluʻolu" meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;
           H."Haʻahaʻa", meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;
           A. "Ahonui", meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.

    These are traits of character that express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii's people. It was the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaiʻi. ''Aloha'' is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation.

 ''Aloha'' means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return. "Aloha" is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence. ''Aloha'' means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.

    (b) (Govenrment's responsibility) In exercising their power on behalf of the people and in fulfillment of their responsibilities, obligations and service to the people, the legislature, governor, lieutenant governor, executive officers of each department, the chief justice, associate justices, and judges of the appellate, circuit, and district courts may contemplate and reside with the life force and give consideration to the "Aloha Spirit". [L 1986, c 202, § 1]

When you're feeling anxious about this or another tragedy, remember to find your own HA (breath)

  1. Take a moment to sit quietly and reflect
  2. Notice if you're holding your breath or breathing shallowly
  3. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart
  4. Slowly and consciously breathe naturally but fully. (no force)
  5. Bring your mind, thoughts, and awareness to the positive aspects you and we can be grateful for.
    (Being grateful for all that is good in the face of suffering doesn't minimize the reality of it -- instead, it helps us see the light and find our HA)
  6. Act in ALOHA 

When tragedy strikes, we must do our part to foster Aloha in our own communities however we're able... and,

Send love and support to the people of Hawaii and those around the world who are also suffering.

We all share the planet, and need to come together as we navigate the horrors and rebuild.

Stay strong, practice ALOHA!

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