LETTER: Words Live On

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In a universe where change is the only constant, I lie awake sometimes and wonder what lasting good I can leave for this world, besides bringing joy to a fruit tree with the calcium from my bones.

I have come to realize that above all else, it is our words that will outlive us.

Without any doubt, there are two sayings that my pistol-of-a-Southern-Belle mother shot through my head until they stuck: “Actions speak louder than words” and “Ya got the same shoes to git glad in, so ya better start gittin’ glad!”

I still hate to admit how right she was. (Oh, yeah, and one more—”I love you.”)

I can think of no better way for our words to live on, than in proverbs and poetical sayings. Each one of them has reached our ears because someone chose to pass them on to the next generation—and the more popular they are, surely the more truth they convey, or so it would seem.


The Hawaiian language is blooming with proverbs and poetical sayings—the ʻŌlelo Noʻeau.

I will never forget the very first one that was spoken to me—Uwē ka lani, ola ka honua. (When the sky weeps, the earth lives.) Simple, succinct; purely mellifluous.

I could just hear Hawaiian mothers gently reminding their keiki of the importance of the rains. The kids were just thinking about how long it would take for the sun to come out again (as the warm mud puddles were calling).

A timeless theme echoing from across the millennia—she will keep repeating it, and its meaning will soak in—eventually.


There are profoundly beautiful proverbs in every language, rich in timeless meaning.

I invite you to find ones that speak to your heart and pass them on, so someone else, in turn, may do the same.

Look someone younger than you in the eye, and keep repeating them with love, until you know they get it—or you die—whichever comes first. (Whispering them from the other side wouldn’t hurt either.)

We all play a role in creating the world and the future we wish to see all around us.


The future will embrace with open arms all the good we have to offer.

O ka pono o ke hana ʻia a iho mai na lani.

Continue to do good until the heavens come down to you.

Jason Riessland is an avid permaculturist, nurse, home-grown food advocate, and freelance writer who lives in Pana‘ewa, Hawai‘i.

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