I Don’t Have Time


Photo: Brendon Kalei'aina Lee

As I write this, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs are in the middle of their first-ever electronic convention. If you were at the opening of the convention you know how I feel about that; however, that is not what I am writing about.

A young member that I know – and when I say “young” I mean in their early 30s – resigned as a committee chair saying they did not have the time. This person volunteers at their church, has a demanding job, used to sit on a board of directors for a nonprofit, and recently got married.

In 2016, at the annual convention for the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs in Las Vegas, I was asked to be a speaker on the last day of the convention as a “young” member who had grown up in the Civic Club movement; I was 47 at the time.

I started my speech with a few historical facts. It had been 29 years since the convention was held at the Plaza Hotel; my father was the president at the time, he was 47. Three months later he died.

I could count on one hand how many members of a civic club were my age and had been active with a club for more than five years. If I was “young” there was something wrong. My next statement shocked everyone. We, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, had allowed an entire generation to slip by without engaging them. We had failed.

What does this have to do with my earlier story?

There is a whole new generation that is now getting engaged with the association and it’s great. Young people taking an interest in civics, and not just politics. Here is where the two stories intersect. When I was a kid, both my parents worked demanding jobs to put three children through private school. I did not find out until recently that my father worked a second job at night that I never knew about.

My parents were both active at church, with the King Kamehameha Day celebration parade and commission, the Aloha Festivals Parade, and the Prince Kūhiō Day parade. My father coached my older brother’s sports, was an amateur radio operator, and an amateur electronics enthusiast (he built our first remote controlled television as well as all of his transmission equipment).

My mother was active with the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association and is still a class representative. They were both very active in the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, holding leadership positions from club president, various council positions and association committees, and eventually association president. All while ensuring their three kids got to practices, games, photo shoots, pageants, and what ever else we were doing.

I cannot recall any moment in my childhood when my parents said they didn’t have time.

Millennials and Generation Z were all born into the digital age. They were multi-tasking before they were in school. Yet when it comes to work, life and community involvement, that does not seem to apply. The story I started with is one that I have heard many times.

Kamehameha Schools talks about servant leadership. The Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs talks about engaging nā ʻōpio. If we truly want the next generation to be servant leaders and carry us into the next century, we need to also teach them to be more committed. “I don’t have time” should not be in their vocabulary. If things are important, we always have time. I guess the question really is, what’s important: not having time, or making time?