Brother Noland Conjugacion calls it Saimin for the Soul, a play on the popular books of uplifting stories, Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Conjugacion, who last appeared in MidWeek in 1992, has turned his considerable interest and talent to producing a book that lets people tell their stories of aloha.
“Several years ago I used to send poetry, artwork and books to my oldest daughter, Pomai. She sent me this book called The Wisdom Keepers, it was about Native American shaman. It was guys who went on a journey to visit kupuna. It was such a wonderful book. The stories were very enchanting and mystical, but they were still very real. And that stimulated it. ‘We should do a Hawaii one.’”
The Lessons of Aloha: Stories of the Human Spirit, an — expansion on his 1999 book, The Lessons of Aloha — features stories by the known and not so known from the late James Grant Benton and Auntie Nona Beamer to Tom McNeil, one of the five people held hostage by gunman John Miranda in 1996.
“I didn’t want to just have kupuna. I wanted to have keiki in there,” he says. “And not to have just one ethnicity in there because Hawaii is special. Everybody has something to offer and something to give. It all ties in and threads through with aloha spirit. When you find your sense of place, that is your aloha. Then you can start sharing with people.”
Conjugacion’s sharing began long before the book was a thought. In 1993 he started giving guitar, ukulele and even basketball lessons at Palama Settlement. He now does the same thing with the Boys and Girls Clubs, Kamehameha Schools, the YWCA and Kamaaina Kids.
“I love the position I’m in right now because it’s all about kids — making them good citizens. All that from the musical career kind of slipped over to what I do now, which is create programs and workshops to help enrich the lives of people and at the same time enrich my life.”
One of his biggest endeavors over the years has been the Goodwill Basketball Tournament. The event that began in 1998 invites kids from all the islands to take part in a tournament that combines competition with life lessons. The tournament gives Conjugacion the chance to combine a couple of his loves, kids and basketball, into a career that brings him a sense of fulfillment. “I feel that I’ve been blessed, because I’ve been able to take all the gifts God gave me and turn it into the form in the way that I do my work.”
No question those he has touched feel the same way.
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