The first LifeRing meeting in the State of Hawaii took place this evening.  The host was Ka Hale Ho‘ala Hou No Na Wahine, the Home of Reawakening for Women, a program for women transitioning from state prison to the community, in Honolulu. About 24 women residents of the program participated, along with Program Director Lorraine Robinson.  I had the privilege of saying a few words of explanation about LifeRing to the group before the meeting, and then we started with the “How was your week?” process.  The women took to it like ducks to water.  They presented engaging and moving stories about the highlights and heartaches of their week.  They seized the opportunity for crosstalk immediately, and created a dense web of supportive connections across the circle.  They showed each other a great deal of respect, appreciation, and warmth.  There was a lot of good-natured laughter.  You could see the positive influence of the meeting in the participants’ postures, facial expressions, and body language.  I have participated in well over a thousand LifeRing meetings, and this was in my opinion one of the ten best of all time.

The meeting at Ka Hale […], commonly known as T. J. Mahoney, will continue on a weekly basis, but unfortunately it has to be closed to non-residents of the program.  However, there are also initiatives underway to launch meetings that can be open to the community.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to give a full-day LifeRing training to a group of nearly 50 staff members from a variety of addiction and mental health treatment organizations on Oahu, and met with a very positive reception.  At the start, I asked the audience members to say a few words about why they were here, and the common theme was that they felt the need to offer their clients more support; the 12-step organizations were just not offering a significant number of their clients a viable recovery pathway.  Despite many distractions — there was another program going on in the next partition, and a hula class on the other side, with paper thin walls — people hung in with the 7-hour workshop, asked great questions, and took tons of notes.  During lunch hour we were privileged to have as guest speaker Mr. Gary Hooser, Majority Leader of the Hawaii Senate, and candidate for Lieutenant Governor.  I had the honor to meet him, and I gave him a LifeRing lapel pin, which he wore during his brief talk (photo).  The whole day’s program was videotaped, but in view of the background noise from the other program and the hula lessons, I suspect you won’t see the tape on prime time television any time soon.  Afterwards, a lot of people stopped to chat and express thanks, and I was told that discussions are ongoing in a number of programs about how to get LifeRing started so that the programs can offer LifeRing to their clients as an additional option.

Over lunch today I had the privilege of having lunch with one of my legal heroes, attorney Walter Schoettele, who won the case of Inouye v. Kemna in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  This case established for the Western states the right of clients in government programs to participate in non-religious treatment and support group options.  I’ve written extensively about this case and its importance (here), and it was a privilege to meet Walter, who lives and practices in Honolulu.  In addition to federal constitutional law, Walter has taken up the cause of native Hawaiians’ land rights.  He’s a true champion of the underdog, as every lawyer ought to be (but not many are).

Added 7/26:  I’ve posted a longer report on the Hawaii trip in my convenor blog.