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On Faith


Saturday, June 9, 2001

Aloha means joining
in life as community

'AMO IS FOR the first A in aloha. It means to carry a burden on the shoulders. This word reminds us of the heavy weight of responsibility we have to "aloha kekahi i kekahi."

This responsibility stems from a heart filled with compassion for all things, but especially those who are the poor and oppressed in life.

The 'auamo is the pole used to rest on the shoulders that carries burdens tied to both ends. The burdens are balanced, which reminds us that not only do we have the responsibility to bear one another's burdens, but our kuleana includes to care for the land, the 'aina, wai and kai.

Li'a is defined as a strong desire, or yearning, as in the yearning for peace and justice. This yearning is what makes aloha more than just a sentimental warm feeling inside. It is the honest truth that needs to find expression in the actions and just thoughts about aloha. Aloha in its most perfect form is the reality of peace and justice. When there is no peace and justice, aloha becomes a yearning for peace and justice. This yearning is echoed in the timeless words of "ua mau ke ea o ka 'aina i ka pono" (the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness).

O IS A WORD MADE UP of a single letter. It fittingly indicates that there is only one answer to the question of life, and that answer is yes. O means to remain true, to endure, to survive, to continue, to exist! To say O means to choose life. This life is not one to be lived in isolation, but in community or in ohana with others. To understand aloha, one must understand what it means to declare O in the face of adversity, discouragement, even death. The O of aloha erases any doubt that Aloha Ke Akua.

Hili means to braid, plait or to string, as flowers for a lei. We must imagine the many diverse peoples in our communities and in the world being woven together into a beautiful rainbow quilt, or strung side by side into a colorful and fragrant lei of life. Aloha is understanding and living this reality that we are all connected to one another; our lives are intertwined even as our roots go deep. Hili is the unifying imperative of aloha.

ALU BEGINS WITH the understanding that there are things in this world that separate, divide, discriminate and destroy. Alu is the response to divisive and destructive natures and energies. It is the antithesis to division. It seeks to bring together, to foster cooperation, to combine, to consolidate. It reminds us that the very nature of Ke Akua is to reconcile, restore, redress. The alu of aloha seeks to address the brokenness in the world around us, in our families and in our communities, to bring together the things that have been separated, to tear down the walls that separate, to oki, to set free those who are held captive.

This is aloha.

Kaleo Patterson is a pastor of Kaumakapili Church
and a member of the Hawaii Ecumenical Coalition.


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