Because of the water, the flower flourishes

Recently, Meg McCormick and I had the amazing opportunity to view the documentary Ola created by Mathew Nagato at a viewing hosted by the He’e Coalition. She and I are both health conscious individuals, taking every chance we can to attend free Sunday morning yoga at Lululemon and discuss clean smoothie recipes, so this seemed like a great reason to expand our health horizons (as well as go out for beer afterwards, because hey, we like beer too).

The writer, producer, and director, Mathew Nagato, began the night by introducing to us the concept of the social origins of health, especially in Hawai’i. He explained how health in Hawai’i  is directly related to a sense of community that is quickly diminishing. The prevailing theme that ensued followed the proverb, “He who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything.”

As the film began, we were quickly enveloped in the philosophy and interrelatedness of concepts that are often viewed separately. The goal of Mathew and his team of participants in the film is to provide a new perspective on health, by looking at the following components:

  • Income
  • Education
  • Opportunity (or lack there of)
  • Housing/neighborhood safety

…all tied together to form the mantra that health is everything.

One of the first speakers in the film discussed that being an American is bad for your health. He backed up his claim with the following statistics: out of the developed world, America has the highest rate of crime, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and domestic violence, as well as the lowest life expectancy. He also stated that our healthcare system does not view stress in relation to a lack of health; that we have a chronic disease system, a system that thrives off of diseases of lifestyle without considering underlying causes, like the components mentioned above. We focus on medical care, not on health care.

Another speaker discussed that research has proven that the larger the gap in income, the greater the gap in social issues such as health and education. He provided a metaphor that connected our system with that of the Titanic: society is the ship, positioned by class. Sure, there are life boats (ahem, opportunities) available in society, but they are not accessible to all. As the ship sinks, the rich jump on the boats while the poor are behind gates, trapped by their circumstances. The connection is that in America, opportunities are available, but they are not equally distributed.

Mathew purposefully and skillfully connected the concepts above to education by exploring stories of adults who are positively impacting their communities by providing children with opportunities to better themselves and their surroundings. One of the primary factors of educational apathy and the explosion of behavioral concerns stems from young people having a decreased value of self-worth.

Some of the great educational programs include an organization called Ma Ka Hana Ka Ike, built from the philosophy that in working, one learns. The entire curriculum is connected to students working with their hands and building things in the community while learning core subjects connected to what they are building. (Visit for more info!)

Another great program is called the Mighty Milers, which is a program that schools have incorporated to get students on their feet and running every morning before school starts, providing them with an emotional release through physical exertion.

Lastly, Mouna Farms in Wai’anae is working towards educating the community on health and sustainability.

The point is that all three of these organizations increase physical activity and provide their community with a sense of value and connection to the people and the land, something that Mathew and his team rightfully believe is connected to health and well-being.

Mathew carefully crafted this documentary around the idea that health is everything and we can achieve optimal health and well-being by taking care of our extended ohana and by living the Hawaiian proverb, “I belong, therefore I am.”

Now that you have a preview, you need to go watch the film. There are so many amazing and inspiring pieces that words on a page cannot do the justice of delivering. Find yourself lost in the scenery of the islands and refreshed by the positivity that extraordinary individuals are creating, and you can create too. And remember the mantra… because of the water, the flower flourishes. What can you do to nourish your surroundings and your people? Go watch the film to find out! =)