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To Pay Or Not To Pay
by Serge Kahili King

To pay or not to pay, that is the issue. Whether 'tis wiser to charge for a service or give it away for free. Oh, conundrum of conundrums!

It's a pretty strange world in a lot of ways, and one of them is the inconsistency of attitudes about paying for education and healing.. A fair percentage of the population in modern countries is quite willing to pay handsomely for "conventional" health care and private schools or tutoring, but balks for some reason at paying anything for "alternative" health care or education.

One argument I hear is that "people shouldn't charge for healing." Somehow drug companies, medical doctors, nurses, psychologists, chiropractors, homeopathic doctors, hypnotherapists and a host of others are exempt from this, and somehow herbalists, energy therapists, spiritual counselors, hands-on-healers and a host of others are not. In some cases the perception seems to be that "conventional" healers had to work hard and pay for their skills, while "alternative" healers were either born with it or had it drop into them out of heaven, and that this somehow justifies the difference. It doesn't take much research to discover that the "alternative" healers had to work just as hard and pay just as much in money and/or time to develop their talents or learn their skills, so that argument doesn't work.

In reference to education, I hear people say "you shouldn't have to pay for knowledge." Again, "conventional" education seems to be exempt from this, as are books and other media, but "alternative" education (in which category I include all manner of workshops, seminars, and lectures by private teachers in any subject) is not. I have never found even a glimmer of justification for this one.

A variation of the inconsistent attitude comes up in regard to "traditional" knowledge and healing. What I am talking about has nothing to do with the unethical and exploitive practice of a "modern" person learning from a "traditional" teacher and then going on to make a lot of money from that learning without any equivalent compensation or benefit going back to that teacher. Instead, what concerns me here is the belief among many modern and even indigenous people that "traditional" knowledge and healing was always provided free of charge. Let's look at that more closely.

The use of money is merely a medium for exchanging goods and services, something humans have done ever since there was more than one of them. Money itself has taken many forms, and in some places it still does. When I visited the island of Yap in the Western Pacific I discovered that they use shell money for bride prices, wheel money for real estate, and American dollars for beer. In Africa, where I lived for seven years, they used gold, iron, and cowrie shells, among other things. But in a great many traditional societies the more common way of exchanging goods and services was through barter or gift.

The barter system is based on exchanging tangible goods or specific services value for value, using negotiation to determine the trade. For instance, if I am a potter and you are a farmer we have to decide how many goats will buy how many pots, or vice versa, depending on whose need is greatest. Or if I am a teacher and you want to be my apprentice, either your family will give me so many cattle a year or you will indenture yourself to me as a servant for so many years. This is very common in Africa, for instance. In all my years of travel, along the coasts and into the interior, among many different tribes, I never once came across traditional teaching or healing being given to non-family members without some kind of exchange taking place.

A gift system is based on treating all exchanges of goods and services as gifts in which negotiation plays no part. This is similar, really, to the "donation" system used by many spiritual healers and counselors today. In Africa, the gift system came into play most often when goods or services had been given and received without negotiation. For instance, one time the women of an African village, for whose children I had been providing dry milk and grain, invited me to a gathering at which they danced and sang in my honor and presented me with fifteen eggs. The use value of their presentation and the food I provided had nothing in common, but the gift value was equal. A few minutes ago I picked up my car from a service station and they didn't charge for checking out a problem, so I bought some gasoline there (I usually buy elsewhere). That was also a gift exchange.

Early Hawaiian society was organized into districts composed mostly of extended family systems, and gifts were the predominant means of exchange. A district, or ahupua'a, typically extended from the sea to the mountains, and feathers might be exchanged for fish in gift-giving, without regard to amounts. There is a Kauai story about a chief who paid Menehune stoneworkers one shrimp each for their work. Modern interpreters think it was a tricky thing to do, but there is no indication in the original story that the laborers were upset about their gift.

Modern times are not the same as ancient times, and although barter and gift-giving is still done, money predominates for most exchanges. More important than that, however, is the fact that there have always been exchanges of some kind in every society. Even in families, where knowledge and healing may be shared freely, there is the subtle recognition that the family members will exchange something at some time when it is needed.

Now I am going to share how I operate, not as a model for anyone else's behavior, but as an example of one person's solution.

First, in my teaching for Aloha International (workshops, books, counseling, etc.) when I charge I do not charge for the knowledge. The knowledge is out there in the universe for anyone else to get the same way I did, or by many other ways. What I charge for is my teaching skill, which I have developed over many years of hard study and practice. Some people feel they cannot afford my workshops, so we provide an abundance of free information through booklets, articles, email counseling, websites, healing circles, live lectures, and video on a voluntary gift-exchange basis. No one has to go without the knowledge, but if they want to take advantage of my special teaching skills in an intensive way they have to pay for it. As for the source of my knowledge, my Hawaiian family has been very well taken care of, thank you.

In my healing work I take a somewhat peculiar stance. First, I make a distinction between counseling and healing. Counseling, for me, is teaching people how to help themselves. Although I do a lot of it for free, I have no problem with charging for it. As for healing, I believe that anyone who has healing skill or ability has the right to charge whatever he or she wishes for that service. However, I have personally chosen not to charge for any direct healing help that I give, whether distant or immediate, and an emergency always gets first priority for my time. To my way of thinking this is my gift to the Universe, and any return donations that people give are forwarded to Aloha International.

What I have stated in the last two paragraphs is my personal policy, not the policy of Aloha International or it's Alakai. As a matter of practical fact, Aloha International's policy tends to follow mine rather closely, but the individual Alakai are free to develop their own.

So, to charge or not to charge; to pay or not to pay, those are the choices. That's called free will. And that's what I believe in.

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