Kōkua is pronounced [ko kuu ah].
Kōkua means to assist those in need. It is a strong and beloved value in Hawaiian culture, which places high regard for Ohana and social interdependence. Pitching in and helping others for their benefit and not for one’s own personal gain is the premise. Kōkua also denotes a spirit of generosity and compassion. Giving help strengthens relationships. If one receives kōkua, they are more likely to give kōkua.
Living on an island ingrains the need for mutual support deeply into its people. In Hawai’i, it is known and readily acknowledged that assistance is needed for maintaining a healthy family, community, workplace, business, or school. Hawaiians practice kōkua by serving their families, the elderly, children, and anyone in their community in a time of need. They value working as a team, collaboratively to achieve goals and to get through hard times.
Hawaiians practice the value by sharing resources with those in need, by offering to help without being asked, by making a special effort to brighten someone’s day, or by working collectively to accomplish a needed task. Practicing kōkua can be the bringing of food to someone who is sick or not able to cook. It can be caring for a child when a parent needs to tend to another responsibility. It can be helping an elder with their daily activities with other family and friends. It can be assisting a farmer to harvest their bounty or tend their land.
Kōkua can be as simple as listening to a friend in their time of need or being part of a team to solve a bigger problem in the community. Kōkua carries the meaning of Kō-kua; your back, to carry one on his/her back. The feeling of picking one up, to support one in need. Hence, the saying “I got your back”. And in Hawai’i, this is just what one does…it is part of the fabric of life.
A compassionate person has care and concern for those around them. We can offer our kōkua as a demonstration of our compassion. When we see someone in need, our compassion leads us to assist them, not for our own fulfillment, but in support of what they need. Cultivate your compassion for others and feel the growing warmth in your heart as you offer your assistance with true generosity.
Acts of kindness grow more kindness. Very simple gestures go a long way in making another feel acknowledged and cared for. When someone feels acknowledged they in turn have more capacity and desire to care for others. We can perform random acts of kindness as a way to practice kokua.
To cultivate our kōkua spirit, we need to have respect. Respect for our elders, for our ohana, our ‘āina, for our creator, and ourselves. When we have respect, we have honor, and we have compassion, which naturally leads us to want to serve others. Each day you can remind yourself to live with respect, the kind of respect you hope to receive from another.
Generosity grows abundance, and abundance moves us out of scarcity and fear and into our power and creativity. When we are generous with another and do not need anything in return, we bring others out of fear and into their own capacity for generosity.