Lucky me! Last month as IHS marked 38 years of service to homeless people, I celebrated 10 years of leading a creative team that has developed programs that has ended homelessness for thousands. I was also honored with induction into the UH Manoa School of Nursing’s Hall of Fame which prompted some personal reflection. I’m most fortunate to have been born and raised in Hawaii, immersed in local values of aloha, lokahi and ohana, surrounded by so many caring and competent mentors throughout my life.
I’ve tried to “pay it forward” by ensuring that IHS programs integrates those same values, practicing aloha, building ohana, and working with lokahi. As an example, our Summer Fun program, which allows homeless children to enjoy fun activities while developing life-long values (aloha), relies on generous donations from community partners (lokahi) and individuals as well as volunteers, who share their skills, expertise, and time (ohana). Our goal is to cultivate local Hawaiian values in our children in the hopes of shaping who they become as adults, which in turn affects who we are as a community.
These values are equally important for every adult to learn and understand. So we work with homeless individuals to teach them how to better deal with their circumstances as well as be better neighbors and tenants. We teach them that they can make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others. As Chuck Swindoll once said, “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
I’m grateful for the ways our community has come together to battle homelessness. Taking up a fight isn’t always bad! It means we are prepared to overcome the barriers that hold us back from achieving our mission, including inertia, bureaucracy, stigma, prejudice and hopelessness. But as the season of elections draws us into discussion and dialogue about issues, remember to fight respectfully and productively. And when elections are over, we are still one community. We need everyone’s ideas and we need everyone’s hearts for the best solutions!