Wayfinding, ‘Ohana and Reunions

I set my own hours, and so I’m one of those lucky ones who hasn’t gone “back to work” yet the way most people do after the holidays. I will tomorrow, January’s mid-Monday as I’m now accustomed to calling it. So one of the things I’ve been working on instead, is plotting my calendar of travel for the months to come.

This will definitely be a year influenced by ‘Ohana and the spirited coming together of reunion.

Paia General Store Stairs

Or, coming back together, I should say. Getting closer where we’ve drifted apart, or lost touch, or have simply forgotten, from slips and falls off our ‘Ohana radar. Life can be hard to keep up with, even for those who are exceptional connectors. We mostly think of reunions as events, but they’re bigger than that, with much bigger influence. There’s so much that leads up to it when you say, “Yes, I’ll be there too!” and then actually show up.

‘Ohana is the word for family in Hawai‘i. As a value it’s more inclusive, stretching arms wide to anyone you choose to call family, holding them closer to you. ‘Ohana is a spirit of family intention given to any group you choose, whether they be your team, another group of co-workers, a volunteer group in your community, or maybe a collection of friends bound together by common thread or some defining moment in their shared history. In Managing with Aloha we call ‘Ohana “the complete human circle of Aloha.”

And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you more in explaining this: Family gets intense.

Compared to having “not a single one” in recent memory, I’ll be involved in three different reunions this year. I’m an outside player to the first one, holding down the fort so others can go. I’ve got the lead instigator role in the second one, a long overdue family reunion — very, very long overdue. I’m too ashamed to reveal the date of our last one, which had been for a white Christmas held in Colorado. Let’s just say my kids still believed in Santa Claus back then, and it was the first time we all learned to ski. In the third one, I’ll see people I’ve not kept in touch with for almost 40 years: They were my co-workers when I was still a teenager, and the restaurant where we worked together has had its doors shuttered for many, many years now. My most embarrassing stories at work when I was much too young to know better? These people all know about them. With my luck, the guy with the best memory will be the one who walks up to me and says, “You don’t remember me, do you. Come on” what’s my name?”


All three reunions will mean I’ve got to get on a plane, travel some distance and stay awhile, and shift my comfort zone so it fits well in a new sense of place. How’s that for wayfinding?

This all started out as “Coincidence, wow. 3 Reunions this year.”
From there it went to calendar planning, and travel budgets, and “Can I fit them all in?”
Now they’re within deep throes of ‘Ohana influence, having me think about all that intimacy required in all those person-to-person connections, and choosing to commit to them, or worse, choosing to let them lapse again when the reunion is over.

The bonds of ‘Ohana are strong yet supple: They flex with giving and with the love and acceptance of Aloha, yet they are made rigidly secure by those same supports. These bonds may be tested, but they cannot be broken.
~ Managing with Aloha, Chapter 7

Um, yeah.
Going back to work tomorrow will be a cakewalk in comparison.

Paia General Store Stairs

About the photos:

“Wait, wait, slow down” now look here, do you see those stairs?”

Every time I drive through Paia, Maui with my mom she points out these stairs, and other places which now have just curb-side reminders of buildings which had once stood when Paia enjoyed its heyday as a bustling sugar mill town. These are the stairs which once led to the Paia General Store, star of a few of her more colorful stories and memories, and I never tire of hearing them. My mom is one of those talented, lights-shining-in-their-eyes storytellers who make every memory a good memory, and one sounding exquisitely beautiful.

Pā‘ia or Paia?


  1. Anne says

    This is definitely the year of ‘Ohana for me, too. The first niece/grandchild/great-grandchild will be born to both the maternal and paternal sides of our family w/n the next 3 weeks…a little girl, Aven Anne, who will bring many family members on both sides together to celebrate her birth. She’ll be born in sunny San Diego with her families of both sides spread from central overcast California and Bay Area to northern rainy Oregon to snowy Utah.