A Season for Change


Hoʻohuli (v. To turn; to change.)

Photo: Sylvia Hussey

Aloha mai kākou,

In our ʻohana, October is a month of birthdays. It’s funny how many of us, in both my immediate and extended family, share October as our birthday month. I am one of them.

Birthdays are a personal time of change and transition. After the celebrations are pau and the cake is all eaten, we file away the previous year of life in our mental memory book and look forward to things to come – a year older and, hopefully, wiser.

Here in Hawaiʻi, October marks the transition from kau wela (the hot season) to hoʻoilo (the rainy season). On the continent, the autumn transition from summer to winter is visually punctuated in October by the “changing of the leaves” from countless shades of green to an explosion of yellows, oranges and reds.

Nature’s rhythms and cycles are all about balance, with equal but opposite forces coexisting in perfect tension: light and darkness; summer and winter, fire and water.

But lately, I’ve observed, our world is increasingly out of balance.

In nature we witness extremes brought on by climate change: melting glaciers and rising sea levels, devastating annual wildfires, increasingly violent storms, catastrophic droughts.

But these extremes manifest in people too.

I remember when folks could “agree to disagree” and remain friends or colleagues or family. It doesn’t seem like that is a thing anymore. Now when people “disagree” they “disengage” and choose to spend their time in bubbles with likeminded people, rather than consider viewpoints that conflict with their own.

Extreme thinking leads to extreme behavior. Reading the national news has become a trauma-inducing experience. Racism and fear-mongering, mass shootings, assaults on the civil rights of already marginalized groups, and the ravaging of our natural environment for corporate profit dominates the headlines.

Three decades into the enlightened 21st century and humanity is still plagued by extreme poverty and fully half of the world’s wealth is controlled by less than 1% of the world’s population. Here at home many Kānaka Maoli struggle with houselessness in our kulāiwi while millionaires from the continent buy up acres of our ʻāina for their private retreats.

These extreme imbalances affect us whether we are conscious of it or not. Tempers flare at the slightest provocation. Small offenses become magnified in our minds and common courtesy seems in short supply. On a recent flight I observed two men get into an argument competing for bag space in the overhead compartment.

So how do we fix this? How do we move from extremes to a place of balance? And how do we protect our ʻohana, moʻomeheu (culture) and ʻāina in the process?

Climate change and wealth disparity are not easily solved. But can we, as individual kanaka, within our own spheres of control – our own ʻohana and community – change our thinking and in the process, change ourselves?

In this time of transition from kau wela to hoʻoilo, with the Makahiki season approaching, can we hoʻohuli (turn, change)? Can we re-learn the art of “agreeing to disagree” and engage in respectful discourse without disparaging others or pointing fingers?

I hope so.

Sylvia M. Hussey, Ed.D.
Chief Executive Officer