1. nvi. Branch, limb, bough, coconut frond; timber, as of outrigger boom or float; wing of an army; to branch out, form branches, diverge. 2. n. Member, as of a society. 3. n. Term in fractions. 4. n. Slip, as of hibiscus. 5. n. Sweet potato produced on a branch vine. 6. n. Barb or hook, as of bone or coconut shell, on a mother-of-pearl lure; bone point of a composite hook. 7. n. Fins.
Lālā has several meanings, but more often than not it means branch, not only referring to branches of a tree or plant but also branches of an organization or group.
If you take a look at all of the meanings above, they are all related to one another, all the way down to number 7. Fins. The most commonly used word for fin is kualā – back fin. Think of the fin as a branch on the back of a fish. Clever, right?
I had the privilege of sharing an ʻōlelo noʻeau with staff this week:
I ulu nō ka lālā i ke kumu
The branches grow because of the trunk, or kumu. Kumu also means source or teacher.
As parents, our keiki flourish because of the support that we give to them, much like a branch flourishes because of the nourishment it receives from the trunk. Hula dancers (ʻōlapa) flourish because of their kumu hula, or hula teacher. Good people and good places grow and flourish because of their source/teacher/trunk/stable person/people in their lives.
Organizations such as Queen’s Health System, Kamehameha Schools, Liliʻuokalani Trust, Kapiʻolani Medical Center For Women and Children , Lunalilo Home, exist because our aliʻi were so forward thinking and took their kuleana so seriously. They each served the Hawaiian people and the residents of Hawaiʻi during their lifetimes but also made sure that kanaka would be cared for after they were gone. I am in awe whenever I think about it. Each loved the kanaka maoli so much that they set aside their lands and their money to benefit Hawaiians and the people of Hawaiʻi, especially those who could not care for themselves.
If you work for one of these organizations, your aliʻi is the kumu and you are part of the legacy. Your organization is the lālā of the aliʻi it serves and you are the lālā of your organization AND your aliʻi. You got the double whammy stroke of luck. You flourish, and as a result your ʻohana flourishes. More importantly, your organization grows and flourishes because of your hard work and dedication and the kuleana you take on everyday. And thus the legacy continues. You are where you are because of your KUMU. Your tree trunk. Your source. Your teacher.
And if you have benefitted from the aloha and care of any or all of these aliʻi, you are also a lālā. Serve them well. Flourish. Grow. And leave a lasting legacy much like our aliʻi.
Copyright: 2017 – Liana Iaea Honda. All rights reserved. All versions of “He Momi e Lei ai”, in its entirety, past and present, is the property of L. K. I. Honda. Reproduction and use of any kind other than the sharing of this website is prohibited without written consent. Alteration to the original content in any form is prohibited in every and any instance, and use in any other variant is prohibited without written consent of the author. Address inquiries to: hemomi [at] gmail.com. Definitions and wise sayings are from: Hawaiian Dictionary by Pukui and Elbert, 1986. ʻŌlelo Noʻeau – Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings by Mary Kawena Pukui, 1983.