Tasteful Toasts Aloha SpiritImage how wonderful your world would be if everyone shared the Aloha Spirit once a day. You’d feel giddy inside knowing you helped make someone’s day a little bit brighter with minimal effort. That’s real magic.

Hawaiians are known for their generosity, hospitality and warm sharing. This giving nature is grounded in the principle of reciprocity frequently labeled as the Aloha Spirit.* The following real life aloha excerpt is one of more than 50 colorful, touching and humorous personal stories from Kauai Stories – a finalist in 2013 National Indie Excellence Book Awards.

Aloha with Your Newspaper
By Lincoln Henry Gill 

One Sunday morning I cut down a large stalk of bananas from one of our trees. It was huge, about 120 bananas, far more than we could eat ourselves or freeze to use later. I split the bananas into smaller bunches and placed them in a box where our driveway meets the street. I attached a sign to the box announcing they were “FREE!”

Throughout that day, I looked out my window and smiled as people drove by, helping themselves to bunches of bananas. I love how people on Kauai share their extra fruit. We are fortunate that our trees produce more than enough to give away. By the end of the day there were still a couple of bunches remaining. I left the box on the side of the road in case anyone coming home from the night shift of work wanted some.

The next morning, when I put my hand into our narrow, bright green plastic daily newspaper receptacle, I got a surprise. There was a package with a note. Inside the package I found six small loaves of freshly baked banana bread. The note read, “This is in appreciation for the bananas which you shared last night. Enjoy! Signed, your Garden Island newspaper carriers, Robert and Winona Romero.”

The banana bread was absolutely delicious, with walnuts and small bits of fresh coconut. With every bite I kept thinking, “How thoughtful of them.” The aloha spirit makes you want to pass it on.

This true story reminds me of a Hawaiian proverb:
Proverb: `A`ohe lokomaika`i i nele i ke pâna`i 


Translation: No kind deed has ever lacked its reward.
Interpretation: Give back in equal measure or more, be it a gift or a smile.

*The literal meaning of aloha is “the presence of breath” or “the breath of life.” It comes from “Alo,” meaning presence, front and face, and “ha,” meaning breath. Aloha is a way of living and treating each other with love and respect. Its deep meaning starts by teaching ourselves to love our own beings first and afterwards to spread the love to others.

[Photo caption: Gardenia and note left with daily newspaper by The Garden Island newspaper carriers Robert and Winona Garcia days after they left freshly baked banana bread. Photo by Lincoln Henry Gill]

Your turn: What’s your favorite local Aloha Spirit story?  

Tasteful Toasts - Win Your Case

My cat excused me from jury duty.

Truth be told, I actually like jury service, but I was scheduled to deliver a dear friend’s eulogy in the middle of the proposed trial dates. I decided to share specific facts about myself that I calculated would free me, temporarily, from my civic duty.

Imagine the four walls that surround you form a courtroom. The judge is sitting on his bench, I'm in the jury box directly in front of you because you are one of the attorneys – you choose: prosecution or defense.

I was perspective juror number nine of a domestic violence case beginning the voire dire process. The judge requires each perspective juror to stand and answer ten questions. I only needed three to be pardoned: Name, marital status, and children.

“Thank you, your Honor, my name is Michael Varma. I am married, have no children but I do take care of a 19-year-old arthritic cat."

The judge asked, "Is it your cat or your wife’s?"

“My wife's.”

"And you take care of her cat?"

"Yes, I kind of married into the family."

And that's all it took. A few minutes later I was excused from jury duty. Just in case you don’t understand, let me help you connect the dots.

Who is my primary audience? By a process of elimination, it’s nobody in the jury box. The judge? Good guess, but no. He’d be considered my secondary audience. It's you, the prosecution and or defense attorney.

What kind of case is this? A domestic violence case. Some guy allegedly got drunk and allegedly beat up his girlfriend.

And what kind of perspective juror am I? I’m a married man that takes care of his wife's 19-year-old arthritic cat which makes me...whipped? Pathetic? No, it makes me a sympathetic juror.

Do the attorneys want me on the jury? No.

Do I get out of jury duty? Yes!

When you define your target audience you can create a classic win-win scenario. In my true tale, the attorneys win by removing a person that might feel negatively about his client’s actions and I win by escaping jury duty.

Your turn: What did you say to your audience to win your case?

The day I met Ernie Weckbaugh, he said, “Michael, never turn down an opportunity to speak…especially if you have a captured audience.” That was one of the many lessons I learned from Ernie, which forced a bittersweet smile on my face as I prepared his eulogy last October. Ever the lighthearted teacher, I can hear his voice, “Instead of offering a chronological presentation of my life, provide some basic facts then key insights that evoke happy, healthy memories and maybe an anecdote or two.”

The Facts
Weckbaugh was a veteran journalist, L.A. Daily News columnist, author and former child actor - a member of the original cast of the Our Gang Comedies (Little Rascals) in the 1930s, and my friend. As the owner and president of Casa Graphics, Inc. and Bestseller Books Publishing, he and his wife Patty, of fifty wonderful years, produced several hundred books for self-publishers. He lectured on small business success, marketing and promotion at UCLA, USC and Woodbury colleges.

An Anecdote (or two)

Ernie could not resist three things in life. First and foremost is his lovely wife Patty – and we know she loved him. She changed her perfect alliteration name from Patty Palmer to Patty Weckbaugh. If that doesn’t say, “I love you,” I don’t know what does. Although, being a Weckbaugh does make her unique.

The other two things Ernie could not resist were a good story and a bad pun. For example: Ernie believed in donating blood. It is a healthy altruistic habit – a planned act of kindness is what he called it, which very few people follow through on. One day when he was providing his bi-monthly donation he had an epiphany.

He told the nurse, “There are only two types of blood donors: pessimists and optimists. A pessimist's blood type is always b-negative; and an optimist’s is b-positive.”

That story netted Ernie a chuckle and an extra pack of cookies. I think that was his real goal. He never met a cookie he didn’t like. No doubt the nurses were on to him.

He also loved helping people tell their own stories by self-publishing books. I recall one tale he worked on in the early 1990s. It was about two Eskimos sitting in a kayak and who were chilly, but when they lit a fire in the craft, it sank, which proved once and for all that you can't have your kayak and heat it, too.

Good clean humor was his trademark. Clean is supreme. Another lesson I learned from Ernest Lewis Weckbaugh.

In Memoriam

I have a simple task for each of you to do on Ernie’s behalf. It’s something very easy. It will take about one hour of your time. And you’ll get a treat when you’re done.

Ernie saved 18 peoples’ lives, a year, for the last 36 years. For non-math majors that’s 630 lives. Like clockwork, every 56 days, Ernie Weckbaugh donated a pint of blood. Each pint can save three lives.

Ernie donated more than 25 gallons of blood over his lifetime and in 2009 was honored by St. Joseph’s Hospital. That’s a whole lot of juice and cookies.

So your mission is, between now and the end of the year, to donate one pint of blood in memory of Ernie Weckbaugh. Maybe, just maybe, it will turn into a happy and healthy habit for you, too.

To Ernie
, and Patty, I offer this tasteful toast:

You are unique
Morals sublime
Character rich
One of a kind


Rewards and incentives drive good behaviors, and increase quality and productivity, but frequently no reward is the best reward a person can receive. The other day I was the recipient of that rare, priceless gift and I’m compelled to share my story.

Finders Keepers

While driving to the library to return a book, I came to a stop at a busy intersection and noticed a walking stick lying in the middle of road. The cane’s shiny brass handle seemed to wink

at me. Yes, this falls into the category of corny, but true. I did not hesitate. I put my vehicle in park and before a steady stream of cars could run me down, I retrieved the discarded dowel.

Upon returning home I began my examination. It was a work of art. The wooden shaft had a spiral inlay of twenty-one brass four-leaf clovers with a complementary solid brass duck’s head handle. Affixed to the collar were a military insignia and an American flag. It had a tasteful masculine air to it. My inspection was interrupted by a phone call, which started another series of events: a funeral, a wedding, and a flurry of houseguests.

Sympathetic Seekers

I placed the prized staff in my home office with the best intentions of promptly finding the owner. During my trips to the airport to pick up and drop off family members, I pondered how to reunite the separated parties.

Sherlock Holmes or Nero Wolf would place an advert in the evening gazette and within a few days suitors would inquire, but this is high-tech modern day where print media is waning. Should I post a picture on Craig’s List? Facebook? Or maybe a low-tech solution of a “Found Cane” flier on telephone poles would be better. More pondering.

Several days went by and on Sunday morning I rolled out of bed and was determined to find cane’s owner. While still in my pajamas I scrutinized the cane for any further clues and that’s when I saw it. Under the handle was a small white label with a name and address. How did I miss that before? My guilt was reduced, just a tad, remembering the adventurous week I had from dawn to dusk and beyond.

Thankful Peepers

I readied myself for my mission with a quick shower, dressed, ate breakfast and hopped into the truck with MapQuest directions in hand. Exactly one mile away (it turned out) I reached my destination.

A spry senior gentleman came to the door, “Yes, may I help you?” he said. I held up the walking stick and his eyes grew wide with surprise and salvation. “I thought I lost that forever. Thank you.” he exclaimed. “I remember putting my wife’s walker in the car to go to the hospital but when we got to the emergency room my cane was gone.”


There are more than monetary rewards in life, which he did offer and I insistently declined. To receive a heartfelt “thank you” is payment beyond measure. This brings to mind an Aristotle quote: “In the arena of human life, the honors and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities in action.”

Why wait to return a lost possession to lift your spirits? Every day we have the privilege to offer genuine praise for a job well done or a sincere compliment to a co-worker, family member or best friend. Do it today. Give something for nothing and reap the rewards.

A tasteful toast to a planned act of kindness:

May it always be in fashion
To arise and take swift action
When a deed is to be done
Even where reward is none


Learn the three Ps of a polished presenter.

Praise in Public


Most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, have a little voice inside that wants us to compliment a coworker at a party and say, “You did a great job,” or “I appreciate your help,” but we’re afraid of appearing foolish or saying something embarrassing. That’s normal. Then we watch a seemingly fearless facilitator stand up at the gathering and convey with conviction similar thoughts. We think to ourselves, “I could have said that.” Yes, that’s normal, too. Transform into that polished presenter by following the three Ps:preparepresent, and prevail.

To prevent flubbed lines, focus on how your coworker assisted you personally or professionally. Select one instance and summarize the situation, solution, and your satisfaction with the end result.

Pretend you’re in front of the party-goers and say your brief praise out loud. Tell it to your significant other – whether they are two or four legged – this minimal practice will calm most stomach squalls. Silly as it may seem, verbalizing your mini-speech, even to an audience of one will make a huge difference. When my wife’s unavailable then my cat plays second fiddle and listens to me practice (in between her naps and meals). 

One of the best times to premiere your praise is right after everyone has assembled and if at a restaurant after folks order their meals. Visualize success and present like you rehearsed.

For example, “My boss needed a chart created for a meeting in ten minutes and I didn’t know how to do it. Bob was able to show me in less than two minutes. I appreciate his help. Thanks, Bob.”

A perfect presentation or not, you will be admired for taking a risk and showing genuine gratitude. The next time you give a pat on the back it will become easier. Both you and the recipient will fill with pride.

I recently complimented a co-worker, “Your summary of the project was quite good. You presented a nice high-level overview, touched upon several key points, and concluded with next action steps. I found it very help and informative.” My associate felt good with the recognition and I was delighted with myself for boldly following through with my remark. Reminds me of a quote by the writer and editor Margaret Cousins, "Appreciation can make a day - even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary."

Far too often people’s achievements are overlooked or worse, expected. A few words of acknowledgement in front of your peers will boost everyone’s moral. Follow the three Ps of a polished presenter (prepare, present, prevail) and you’ll prosper at praising in public.


The one with the most joys wins!

Charlie Brown had it right, you don’t need a gazillion presents underneath an overly decorated tree to confirm the true meaning of Christmas. The Grinch discovered the significance of this joyous day after he stole Who-ville’s pop guns, roller skates and drums. These classic cartoons play on TV every year, highlighting the over-commercialization of Xmas causing us to forget that all we really need to do is offer an honest compliment.

Now-a-days Christmas is celebrated by many different religions (and retailers) causing a shift in the meaning of “Merry Christmas.” Without going into the syncretization between Saint Nick and elements from pagan Nordic and Christian mythology, what we’re really trying to say is “I wish you and your family are safe and well until I see you again.”

Some would argue it has an even more relaxed meaning of, “Rest, relax and rejoice on this paid holiday.” Either way you dice it, it’s still a compliment: expressing praise, congratulations or encouragement.

Telling family and friends how much you love and appreciate the time they share with you is fabulous. It’s like giving a tasteful toast to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside. It has many positive side affects. It strengthens relationships, boosts self-esteem and increases happiness.

I humbly request all recipients of my blog to get back to basics and offer one compliment a day for the next two week. Yes, I know it takes two weeks to form a new habit. But just think how your corner of the world will be much brighter all 365 days because of your new routine.

Here are the steps to take in order to provide a heartfelt compliment:

1. Pick a person.
It can be a coworker, mailman, secretary, boss, teacher, stranger, friend or enemy.

2. Find a feature.
Characteristics can be concrete or intangible like a smile, sunny disposition or hair style.

3. State with sincerity.
For example, “Barbara, that’s a lovely coat you’re wearing.”

If you deal with customers on a daily basis I challenge you to offer a compliment to each person.
Remember, this is a planned act of kindness and does not mean that you should expect one in return. It costs nothing to give and is priceless to receive.

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