Webster’s defines self-reliance as reliance on oneself or one’s own powers, resources, etc.
In my last installment, I wrote about our family’s attempt towards self-reliance. Writing about it stirred many thoughts that kept tugging at me. In my greatest intentions, I planned to sit down within a few weeks and share these thoughts. Here we are 4 weeks into the new homeschool year and I am stealing a fast fleeting moment to myself to get back to the subject.
After much contemplation and reflection, I have come to the conclusion that we are far from self-reliant. In fact, I wonder how anyone can label himself as such. When we began this adventure over eight years ago, we knew the only way it was possible was to rely on a higher power beyond ourselves to provide all the resources, connections, finances, wisdom, direction, etc. needed to fulfill the dream that had been implanted in our hearts. We were completely RELIANT on the Lord above or Ke Akua as he is referred to here in this land. If we relied on SELF we would be in a completely different place not fulfilling any dreams but just striving to survive.
Now we have a story, without an ending, that shares what happens when you lie down self and trust that all your needs will be provided for to bring a God-given dream to fruition.
After three years of searching for land from Kaʻaʻawa to Waimānalo, never did we dare consider looking in Maunawili, one of the most expensive neighborhoods on our side of the island. I do remember one time driving around the looking for Ag land and Dean saying “If I could choose the ideal place to farm kalo it would be Maunawili.” Once considered to be the breadbasket of the windward side, it is lush, green, ideal for farming, abundant in resources, and conveniently located. We both chuckled at the notion that we would be able to afford land there. Fast forward to August 2007 when we signed the deed to 7.6 acres in Maunawili. Owning that much land on this island is unheard of especially in that neighborhood. We went from 7,000 square feet at our previous property to 7.6 acres!!! This still blows my mind, especially when during this time period prices of land were soaring to new levels of outlandishness.
There is much more to that story but we are focusing on reliance…. back on track. So there we were, with signed papers in hand, not really being able to fathom it all, starring at a 7.6-acre weed patch that as far as we could tell had not been touched in decades. It might be hard to imagine if you don’t live in Hawaiʻi the nature of a tropical rain forest. Things grow unbelievably large, abundant, and fast. I was completely overwhelmed and had no idea where we would begin. I would pull one weed and by the time I got to the next, I would swear I saw the other one growing right back. How could Dean and I manage this with 3 young children, (little did we know a fourth was on the way) no experience in farming and little finances left to build basic infrastructure? Even if we had the resources and experience we had little time. Dean was working full time as a teacher, we were caretaking a church and he was playing music in the evenings. What were we thinking? Did we make a big mistake? Once again we had to lay it all down. If Ke Akua deposited the dream, He knew the way and would provide.
We started on the pile that had been dumping grounds for contractors to leave their leftovers instead of paying at the dump. We knew we had to reach out for support. Who do you call first… your family. They showed up in droves with their tools and trucks ready to get down and dirty. It was our first sign of encouragement that led to a flood of support coming from every unexpected place imaginable. First, our surrounding neighbors came. Once they heard our vision and our intent they jumped in full support giving up their precious Saturdays to lend a helping hand, take a dump run, take down some invasive trees, whatever we needed they were there. As we began to share our story with others in the community it would touch certain individuals and they would show up to help pull weeds or dig a ditch or move some mud. On one workday a kupuna, Poki, came to help. He hasn’t stopped coming since and that was 3 years ago. He is almost 80 years old and loves to be in the loʻi. It is his place of refuge. If it weren’t for him the weeds would have overtaken us by now. There is also Kevin our faithful bank builder. He meticulously and tirelessly builds the banks as if he was a trained engineer and then thoughtfully covers them in a carpet of lush grass to keep the weeds at bay. I wonder if he contemplates that one day the work of his hands will be referred to as the ancient walls, signs of Hawaiian life, and sustenance. Uncle Earl is another kupuna, a very well respected and sought after Hawaiian cultural practitioner who just showed up one day for a workday. We had no idea how he heard about it. Since that day he has taken Kapalai and our family under his wing teaching us ancient ways of farming and life of our ancestors.
These are only a few examples. We continue to be humbled by the generosity of others to help us fulfill the mission of Kapalai. The point is every time we hit a point of discouragement, feeling just flat out exhausted and wanting to give up, these angels just drop out of nowhere and we are once again reminded this is not about us. There is a bigger picture, a greater cause, and we will receive all that we need to ensure that what is developing at Kapalai will perpetuate through the community and leave a lasting legacy for future generations.
If we return back to the definition of self-reliance it is almost appalling and seemingly arrogant. Reliance on oneself or one’s own powers, resources, etc. Okay, so maybe we are less reliant on man-made resources. But we are completely reliant on those resources that cannot be measured or manufactured. I haven’t even mentioned the sun, the rain, the springs bubbling from underground, the soil, or the kalo. Without these natural resources, we would have nothing to talk about. But more importantly, I’m talking about those resources that we all need and depend on to fulfill dreams. It is the generosity of family, friends, and neighbors that have sustained us. We purchased Kapalai to build a center for the community. For the past 4 years, it is the community that has given to us. The community is our provision that we are completely reliant upon. Perhaps it would have been easier to have a million dollars, hire a contracting firm and just bang this thing out. But what a boring story. If this is a place of future inspiration then the foundation for inspiration is being built right now. We have no power, no resources, to accomplish what we are doing and yet it is being done. That is the story. This is the inspiration: Complete reliance on the gifts, provisions, and resources that come from the Creator.
Now I just need a word to describe what I am talking about so we can teach it to our children. Present-day homesteading is not working towards self-reliance but returning back to reliance on those resources that have been given to us so that we may prosper. Is there a word for this?