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Lokomaika‘i: The Hawaiian Practice of Generosity

November 28, 2013
Jimmy Haynes - Consultant, MNHCoC Past President and Board Member , Maui Weekly

As a kupuna and as a businessman, I believe generosity benefits the giver more than the receiver. I cannot prove this, but a lifetime of giving shows me it is true.

A lot of people would consider me a fortunate Hawaiian--successful in many business ventures, including a stevedore company, Hawai'i Petroleum, Maui Petroleum, Maui Disposal and the Minit Stop Stores. Business was natural to me because my father was a businessman. My first job was a newspaper boy in seventh and eighth grade.

I met my accomplished and beautiful wife, Honey Bun, in high school, and this year we will celebrate 49 years of marriage. After Punahou, I received a degree in accounting at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.

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‘Ōlelo Pā‘oihana
Business Talk
Jimmy Haynes · Consultant, MNHCoC Past President and Board Member

I believe very strongly that generosity and giving increases success--every time I gave, my business grew. If there is one important lesson I can pass on to young businesspeople, it is to practice lokomaika'i.

In business, you have many opportunities to be generous with employees, distributors, customers and the community. Well-treated employees tend to stick around. Seasoned staff creates a smooth operation that serves customers better and lets you expand. We paid top wages, and when employees had grievances, we listened.

Giving also means leaving a little money on the table to create a win-win deal and build relationships. A "scorched earth" negotiation creates animosity. Good due diligence always leaves room for generosity.

We grew up on O'ahu, but my father loved to visit Kalalau Valley on Kaua'i, where Hawaii-ans lived until the 1920s. Every land feature there had a meaningful name. A little switchback trail between gulches was "Ke'ehiumikumaeiwa" or "19 steps." Another spot called "Kauakoa," was where warriors would defend the valley. Once, a man from Ni'ihau told me 15 different names of waves. For a fisherman, knowledge of wave action was survival. Without it, his community suffered.

Lokomaika'i is giving gifts, too. Visiting a Hawaiian home means you will leave with something--either a full stomach or a material gift. After the 1946 tidal wave, my father organized a relief program for Hawaiian families ruined in Haena and Wainiha. Afterwards, they came to him: "We want to aloha you by giving you some of our land." My father declined. Can you imagine losing everything, and then gifting away your land? Such giving when there is nothing to give is distinctly Hawaiian.

I fear today we rely too much on government programs to fix problems once resolved by charity and reciprocal giving. Giving to big funds and receiving from a help desk removes the joy and responsibility of giving; the gratitude and responsibility of receiving. Opportunity for self-reliance and reciprocity is lost.

The ahupua'a system demanded both self-reliance and interdependence. Leeward fishermen traded with windward taro farmers and both ate healthy diets. Konohiki and ali'i gave to the maka'ainana; thriving people gave back to their rulers. Giving, sharing and trading from a good heart, was "lokomaika'i." It's a very simple concept of shared success.

At this time of year, when we think of giving, create success--practice lokomaika'i.



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