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Lessons for newcomers

A beloved, 82-year-old kumu hula was recently attempting to pull out of the Costco gas station when a young man cut her off in his truck. His friends thought it was funny when he flipped her the bird.

A fancy car with out-of-state plates pulled to within feet of our rear bumper this week as we were traveling in a long line of cars on Maui Veterans Highway. Its driver stayed glued there until he could veer into the other busy lane and jump two car lengths ahead to tailgate someone else. We won’t say what state the car was from but it rhymes with California.

Maybe the two drivers were born and raised here, but it seems unlikely. Folks who have lived in Hawaii for a while know that respect for others, especially for elders, goes a long way. Island life teaches that what goes around comes around. Talk stink about someone and you may suddenly find you are speaking to their aunty.

With our local real estate market being dominated by Mainland buyers, and renters moving here to work remotely, Maui is experiencing an influx of new residents. That’s nothing new. The island often cycles through arriving and departing denizens. Many of us who live here came from somewhere else. Even the first Hawaiians were newcomers on the day they landed.

The key is what you do and how you behave once you get here. This island has a way of rejecting or embracing people depending on what they bring to the table. Are you interested in learning about Hawaiian history and local culture? Are you observant enough to notice how generous local people are, how they don’t push their way to the front of the line?

We had friends who used to say that if a transplant could make it a year on Maui, they had the potential to last a lifetime. The takers and complainers, the souls fond of saying, “we did it better where I came from,” are doomed from the start. They buy tickets home while their contented counterparts secure second jobs to make it possible to stay.

Here are a few suggestions we would share with newcomers: Give back by volunteering to help others and the environment. This is a great way to make friends and become part of a community. Opening up the checkbook helps too. Donating to worthy causes is the local way.

Join a hula halau, canoe club, lei-making workshop, ukulele class or other activity that can be your gateway to the culture. Not only will it expand your horizons, it will help you understand what a privilege it is to be a Hawaii resident, how lucky we are to be here.

Don’t pre-judge people by the way they look or speak. Great wisdom can come from unlikely sources.

Show respect, be patient and be grateful.

You’re living in paradise.

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