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Celebrating the Aloha Spirit, From Our 'Ohana to Yours (and a Brief Tutorial on Hawaiian Values)

On September 15th, Auto/Mate Dealership Systems celebrated Hawaiian Day! Many of our employees tell me Hawaiian Day is one of their favorite company events. The day started out with myself and Ken Rock, Corporate Training Manager, wearing a grass skirt and "coconut shell" bra, greeting employees with flower leis as they arrived at work.


Employees were encouraged to wear island wear and festivities included a catered lunch and virgin pina coladas. Later in the afternoon, a Kona Ice truck arrived to serve shaved ice treats.


So, what's the point of sharing this? Because there's more happening here on Hawaiian Day than just eating and the shaking of coconut shells. The reason I love Hawaiian day is because I view it as an opportunity to strengthen our company's core values, and to show our employees an appreciation for what they do every day.


Core values are important because they are the essence of a company's identity, and also the essence of the individuals who work at that company. You can see a list of Auto/Mate's core values here, but the purpose of this blog is not to promote our company's core values.


Today I want to talk about the essence of core values in words. In our society today we don't talk much about the importance of words and their meanings. Too often people use words in a glib manner, and in the workplace they are often used to one's advantage: to sell, to promote, to brag.


Recently I spent some time in Hawaii. If you learn just two words in Hawaiian, learn these: 'aloha' and 'mahalo.' They are two of the most important words in the Hawaiian language, representing paramount Hawaiian values.


In Hawaiian thinking, words have mana [pronounced: mah' nah], meaning spiritual or divine power. Aloha and mahalo are among the most sacred and powerful words.


On a spiritual level, aloha is an invocation of the Divine and mahalo is a Divine blessing. Both are acknowledgments of the Divinity that dwells within and without.


Aloha is the most Hawaiian word. In the Hawaiian language, it can mean hello or goodbye. It also means love and affection.


Aloha is a Hawaiian symbol. Its meaning goes beyond any definition you can find about it in the dictionaries. In Hawaii, you hear aloha all the time and you are treated with aloha everywhere.


The literal meaning of aloha is “the presence of breath” or “the breath of life.” It comes from 'Alo,' meaning presence, front and face, and 'ha,' meaning breath. Aloha is a way of living and treating each other with love and respect. Its deep meaning starts by teaching ourselves to love our own beings first and afterwards to spread the love to others.


'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. Aloha is the contemplation and presence of the life force.


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.


Mahalo is a kind expression of thanks, gratitude, admiration, praise, esteem, regards, or respect.


Another Hawaiian word that to me, is just as important, is 'Ohana


The Hawaiian word 'ohana literally means family. However, the actual concept and examples of 'ohana are more complex. The mainland concept of family is a mother, a father and their children. Granted, many other types of families exist. In Hawaii, however, the "other" type of family is more the norm than the exception. Many families consist of parents, grandparents and children all residing under one roof. It's not unusual to see a child being raised by a grandparent or aunt while the parents live and work elsewhere. The Hawaiian family or 'ohana can also consist of others not related by birth. A valued friend can be a member of your 'ohana. An entire group of close friends or associates can be their own 'ohana. The late Hawaiian music superstar Israel Kamakawiwo'ole often referred to the friends he chatted with on the Net as his "cyber 'ohana."


So treat each other with Aloha and remember we are all 'Ohana....Mahalo.

(Sources: The University of Hawai'i, The Law of Aloha; Wikipedia, Mahalo; Travel, Lilo & Stitch and the Spirit of Hawaii)

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