HEALTHY LIVING
09/04/2013 12:50 pm ET | Updated Sep 05, 2013

FACE, Hawaii Grassroots Organization, Fights To Keep The 'Aloha Spirit' Alive

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Honolulu has the second worst traffic of any city in the United States (only Los Angeles beats it). And yet, nobody honks a horn.

"The only time that ever happens is when you're waving to someone you know," explains Drew Astolfi, the state director of Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE) in Hawaii.

This scenario exemplifies the overarching aloha spirit, which organizations like FACE are working to preserve. The grassroots, faith-based organization, founded in 1996, aims to democratize state policies and campaigns for those who are often left out of state-wide decision making: Namely, groups who are considered "locals," which include native Hawaiians and families who immigrated about a hundred years ago.

"There is something to this sense of 'living aloha,'" Astolfi says. "It's sort of just being nice to each other -- I would hate to see that gone."

Most recently, FACE has been working to raise the state's minimum wage to what would be the highest in the country. And while it's a serious cause that takes determination and grit, the deliberation is done with a degree of diplomacy unlikely to be found elsewhere in the county.

"This would never happen in New York," says Astolfi, who grew up in New York City and worked in the South Bronx where, he says, "it felt like you had to go and take over somebody's office to get a meeting." That's not the case in Hawaii: "There's this feeling that we're going to be working together for a long time -- there's a basic respect for people that everybody shares."

After living in Hawaii for a decade, Astolfi seems to have a personal sanguinity that reflects the state's morale. While the bill for increased wages didn't pass this May, the case will be revisited in January. "We feel like it’s going to happen," he says.

Astolfi says that people worry that this aloha spirit -- where residents only honk to say hello -- is slipping away. "A lot of our work is defending that thing that is unique," he says. "We try to fight with some aloha."

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