Labor Day Aloha

For the longest time I considered Labor Day nothing but an extra holiday. I wasn’t aware of the true history behind this American holiday, and I wasn’t curious about it either.

Growing up in Hawai‘i meant it was an extra beach day, and a really ono barbecue grinds day. As a kid, that was pretty much all I needed to know!


Then came my learning about Ho‘ohana, and my growing into the beliefs I have today about what this Hawaiian value of intentional, worthwhile work can be all about.

Hana ~ work
Ho‘o ~ make something happen
Ho‘ohana ~ make work happen as a Hawaiian value of living well
within our sense of place

Let’s explore this through Labor Day Aloha

WORK is a highly underrated word.
When work is good, it is really, really good.

You can belabor it, or have it be a labor of your love and Aloha. It’s completely up to you.

I prefer this kind of LABOR:

L – Love your work and the job you do. If you don’t, find new work you will love (and co-workers you’ll love being with). Your life is too precious to squander away in mediocrity or boredom.
A – Accept the reality that work is personal. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, and be personal while doing your work. Other people will relate better to you that way.
B – Brand what you do with your personal signature. Stand up for your work. Be proud of it, and be proud of being associated with it.
O – ‘Ohana, (your family) is connected to your work whether they want to be or not. Understand that, and make it a good thing. When you come home at the end of the workday bring only the good parts home with you.
R – Relationships at work are important. Welcome them. Invest in them. People first, tasks second—always. Friendships and teamwork can co-exist, and productively so.

Our DAYs will add up to the character of life we have:

D – Daily actions must point toward your ‘Imi ola (desired destiny). Otherwise you’re wasting your time, and you probably aren’t having too much fun. Fun is useful: It gives you more energy and it keeps you healthy.
A – Actions do speak louder than words. It’s true (and by now you know I’m a big fan of words and language). Walk your talk. (Which by the way, is a cakewalk when you love your job—go to the top and read L again.)
Y – Your work life is what you make it. Everything starts and ends with You. Take responsibility for your work, and on this Labor Day, celebrate the wonderful fact that you have a choice in everything you do. (Yes you do: No victim mentality allowed in the self-leadership of Alaka‘i thinking).

ALOHA makes everything even better:

A ”“ Authenticity is very attractive when connected to Aloha: “Alo” on the outside, and “ha” coming from the inside. Pretending you’re something or someone you’re not is way too stressful, (and it annoys everyone else you work with). I’ll bet you’re pretty cool just the way you are.
L ”“ Livelihood is a word we must all define on our own terms. Money is not evil, but it is the currency of our society, so define your terms in a way you can live well with both physically and emotionally.
O ”“ Optimism drives so much, and it’s magnetic. Be practiced in sharing a positive outlook and you will find it begins to influence everything you do, and all work which comes your way. Magically, it will also be the work you want.
H ”“ Have Ho‘ohana be your Labor Day mantra, today and every day. Ho‘ohana is the Hawaiian value of intentional work, and if you have chosen to live and work in our Hawai‘i nei, you have chosen our sense of place (as defined by our cultural values) regardless of the blood type running through your veins.
A ”“ Appreciate work because you can do it! Appreciate your health because it enables you to do the work of your Ho‘ohana. Appreciate others who work, because you need them as much as they need you. They make your life interesting, and worth the living of it.

Horizon Watcher

Today, on a day where “millions of Americans will celebrate Labor Day in a time-honored way ”“ by deliberately avoiding labor” let’s be grateful for work in all its form and function. Think about it: Work creates the possibility of play!

If you will be playing today, do enjoy it thoroughly. However notice it thoroughly too: If not for the work that so many do so brilliantly, providing the possibility, would you be able to enjoy what you will savor today?

We Ho‘ohana Kākou, together, and within Aloha.

For those who prefer them, here are the Talking Story links embedded in this posting:

  1. Aloha Training? Make it all personal
  2. What’s your Calling? Has it become your Ho‘ohana?
  3. I want a Labor Day about Ho‘ohana

Article originally published on Say “Alaka‘i” September 2009
Labor Day Aloha


  1. Anne says

    Wonderful post, Rosa!! I’m printing it out and putting in my MWA book!
    I went shopping today and I noticed how upbeat the clerks were at the three stores I went to…I think they were HAPPY to “Labor to-Day”, happy that they HAD a job! I was happy for them, too!

    • Rosa Say says

      That’s so great Anne: We need the scene you describe at every workplace which exists – and working joy is a great contagion: It does rub off positively on customers, and everyone else who encounters it – just as it did on you!

    • Rosa Say says

      I am not surprised that one resonated with you Ulla, for you demonstrate your leaps with personal involvement so well: I love how you so willingly share your lessons learned with the rest of us.

  2. says

    Rosa – I’m with you – I love work. I remember long ago a client of mine saying, “work is work or they wouldn’t call it work.” I felt so sad for him, because then, as is still true today, I get up every morning almost giggling that someone is actually going to pay me to do what I love! Our passion in life is helping others find the path to that same state. In the spiritual side of the employment world, they talk about “vocation” as opposed to career. One’s vocation, says Frederick Buechner, is “where your deep passion meets the world’s deep hunger.” I’ve found my vocation. It is clear, Rosa, that you have found yours – how many others can say they have? – Kris Girrell, Sr. Partenr, Camden Consulting Group, a CPI Partner

    • Rosa Say says

      Thank you for sharing this Kris, I LOVE it!

      One’s vocation, says Frederick Buechner, is “where your deep passion meets the world’s deep hunger.”

      For me, it connects so well to another mantra that reminds us “life is not a solo proposition: We human beings were not meant to live alone.” I am afraid I do not know who to attribute it to, but it got the concept of “servant leadership” to make more sense to me in much the same way the Buechner quote resonates: We hunger within our need for shared humanity, whether at work, with our families, and within our friendships – in all our community associations.