Be a Kahu


Be a Kahu

One of the great joys of travelling is meeting people from all over the world. An added benefit of travelling last week was missing all the snow here in Michigan. While sitting in a pool on an 80-degree day last week, I overheard someone use the word Kahu to describe their spouse. My wife and I will be married for twenty-five years this November and I love my wife fiercely. I call her my best friend, my roommate, my consigliere, and several other names of affection and respect. I have never heard the word Kahu mentioned when describing a spouse. Anyone that knows me knows I had to ask this stranger floating in the pool a few feet away about this word.

“Kahu is a Hawaiian word. It means honored caretaker or guardian. My wife is my Kahu.”

Naturally, I had to look it up. The Hawaiian dictionary’s definition is as follows:

[Hawaiian Dictionary (Hawaiian)]


  1. n. Honored attendant, guardian, nurse, keeper of ʻunihipili bones, regent, keeper, administrator, warden, caretaker, master, mistress; pastor, minister, reverend, or preacher of a church; one who has a dog, cat, pig, or other pet. According to J. S. Emerson; 92:2, Kahu “implies the most intimate and confidential relations between the god and its guardian or keeper, while the word kahuna suggests more of the professional relation of the priest to the community.”

My friends, I have no idea what unihipili bones are and do not own any pigs, but I think you get the meaning.

I am sure if you asked my better half, she would tell you some days I am a good husband and some days I am her second child. The point to all this is, what are we? Last week, we talked about choosing how old to be by how we acted and see the world. This week, I’ll ask this…Who will you be to those you care most about? A parent or a Kahu? A spouse or a Kahu? A son our daughter or a Kahu? For me, being someone’s honored attendant or guardian takes the title of spouse, father, or son to an entirely different place. To be honored to be in that relationship. It is a privilege to be my son’s father. To be my wife’s husband. To be a keeper, caretaker, nurse, and guardian lends far more to the strength both required and deserved of such titles, don’t you think?

Every day brings with it choices. We can choose to be happy or grumpy. We can choose to look upon the world with kind eyes or critical ones. I choose to advocate for more joy. I choose happy. Now, I choose to be a Kahu to those I love and care for. I am honored to serve them. What will your choices be? Here in the tribe of up, we seek to make our communities kinder places. I can think of no better word to add to our tribal vocabulary than Kahu.

Sadly, I know people who try and find the negative in anything. Perhaps unihipili bones are a bad thing. Perhaps there is another definition out there in Webster’s Dictionary. Quite frankly, I do not care. Kahu to me will mean what I said earlier. To be an honored attendant, guardian, and keeper to those in my life. Yes, travelling and meeting people from around the world could be one of my most favorite things ever. To the gentlemen from Anchorage, Alaska I met in the pool last week, thank you. God’s speed on your trip home.

Steve is a Dexter resident and the Owner, Chief Kahu Officer and Vice President of Positive Travel Experiences at Better Place Consulting, a success coaching and consulting firm. If you want to develop more Kahu in your everyday life, reach out to him at

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