Sunday Mālama: What Sunday should be

I’ve learned not to use the word ‘should’ that often, for the word has taken on a presumptuous and judgmental air to me (blame strengths coach Marcus Buckingham and his definition of should-ing). Yet there are still a few times, increasingly rare though they may be, that I’m willing to shoulder that risk — is it ironic or fitting that ‘shoulder’ has ‘should’ within it?

Well, I shall willingly stand tall to shoulder this as well as I have been taught to. This is one of those times for testament to what we ‘should’ do, for denying the rightness of Sunday Mālama would seem like borderline blasphemy.

I welcome you to take a stroll with me along three paths, each with different experiences to share:

Three Paths

Path One: Living With The Pope

When I was growing up, ours was a family that went to church every Sunday without fail. My dad was the one we thought of as “the holy one” and we’d all call him “the Pope” when we were sure he couldn’t hear us (my mom was the one who started it).

As early as I can remember, my mom was the one who did the flowers for the church every Saturday afternoon, and I honestly think that Sunday mornings were more of a vanity fix for her as the entire congregation “ooh”d and “aah”d over them. She deserved the accolades; Mom also had (still has) an extraordinary talent for fashioning any kind of flower a bride would choose into bouquets for weddings, and all was done in her volunteer time as a lush and fragrant hobby.

That’s me and my dad at my wedding, and yes, my mom did the bouquet.

Mom made it so the church was always beautiful, and feeling community-fresh to us instead of reverent-old. The greens and flowers she used came from others in the congregation, but they needed my mom to figure out what to do with them, and as bravely as she did:  Her exuberant arrangements would never be described as ‘modest.’ We had a good-sized yard of our own, but gardening was not in my parents’ life-crafting regimen; they simply didn’t have the time for it (though I never sensed they had the desire either.)

Dad was the one who made Sundays sacred as fitting complement to my mom’s crafty and decorative talents freely given to the church. Where my mom’s clever resourcefulness would shine in a tangible way — she never knew what the congregation would arrive with Saturday afternoons, freshly cut from their yards — my dad’s would radiate from an inner wellspring, a gardening inside him that Sunday framed equally well. And by extension, we were his ‘crops.’

We wouldn’t describe our Sundays as a reflective “day of rest” though; he kept us all busy, and it always felt like we were working on something. Dad kept it all too real, and very down-to-earth: He was not a touchy-feely kind of guy, and having a good work ethic regardless of the day of the week was the way you worked on living a worthy life. As we followed his lead, Sundays were sacred in that they were about our faith, our place in the world, and about ‘ohana, our family, and about generally being as good as we could possibly be for the entire day. In point of fact, we worked harder: Sunday was the day that you made up for any slip-ups or indiscretions in the week before, with my dad giving us a wealth of physical possibilities in doing so. In working through it all, with Dad affirming our contribution to the family’s well-being, you fortified your character for the week ahead.

We also thought of Sunday as a kind of neighborhood and community day, for that was when ho‘omāka‘ika‘i; we went visiting when the chosen work was light and quickly accomplished. It was the day we’d get lectures on things like citizenship, civic duty and social responsibility, or charity, patriotism and history as explanations on what we could learn from our neighbors and parents’ friends, and should. Back then, children were seen and not heard, but expected to listen, and anything another adult would say to us was gospel, as surely as what the priest had said in his sermon earlier that morning. A visit on Sunday seemed to be a kind of guarantee of an adult’s truthfulness.

Sunday then, was the day that we learned values from our parents, just as they had learned them from their parents. We had modest scoops of value-learning every day, but Sunday was the day it came in droves, and you better be able to take it all in.

Looking back, I also realize that Sunday was our entertainment day, with other people playing a starring role in what would amuse us. Technology hadn’t yet intruded in the way it does today, getting us to be more interested in a small screen over a person’s face or voice. It was a good way to grow up, within those early Sundays devoted to Mālama, caring for and about each other, and having our faith.

Path Two: ‘Ohana Mālama

In the last two years I worked at the Hualalai Resort at Ka‘Å«pÅ«lehu as their v.p. of operations, we were acutely aware of a shift in the preferences of our customers. We had been the darling of Kona’s Gold Coast in the five years since the resort had opened, and had enjoyed some global fame, however we couldn’t rest on our laurels; everyone we thought of as any competition was stepping it up because the customer demanded it, and frankly, it was getting really tough to please them.

I pulled my department heads together in a halawai (meeting) one afternoon, hoping we could achieve a meeting of the minds, a breakthrough of some kind, and about three hours later we felt we had, best we knew how. We came up with a campaign we’d use as our “language of leadership” as we rallied our staff together for the challenge, calling it exactly what it was and had to be, a Focus on the Customer; our focus as a newly caring signature on the work performance we delivered.

We laid out a strategy on the specifics we had to work on in the campaign, from service execution to problem solving, from new hire orientations to Ho‘ohana Reviews (commonly referred to as performance appraisals), and from pricing to new product evolutions we would explore. Ho‘okipa (exceptional hospitality) became our mantra for the campaign, and while we felt confident in the abilities of our staff as Mea Ho‘okipa (our hospitality givers) we still knew we had considerable work to do simply in making the shift happen; we had gotten too comfortable, and comfort was no longer a luxury we could afford.

There were a lot of details to be covered; our campaign was ambitious. Writer that I enjoy being (luckily in this case, for I had a big operation to cover), my ‘Ohana in Business was very accustomed to getting email coaching from me, and I soon started a daily message that every manager could read first thing each morning, and then print to cover with everyone in their shift line-ups. My message was more organizational than inspirational at first. It took our Focus on the Customer initiatives and strategies and broke them into bite-sized, action-for-today pieces, just enough to fill the preview pane in Outlook.

My message was called the Daily ‘Ohana Mālama. I would now describe it as an early version of the internal blog, using all we had at the time: The infancy of email, and the wonderful fact that we still talked to each other about it as ‘mail’ and little more. We were still a bit naive about how communication would change, and we deferred to conversations with each other as we always had done to actually effect the work of change: My email was simply a daily trigger. ‘Ohana because we were all in it together; we had to be as tightly connected and committed as family if it was to work. Mālama because caring about the program enough to follow through consistently would be critical to our success — and our persistent, day-by-day determination.

Mālama is the value of caring, empathy, and stewardship, and thus it was a wonderful director. The goal of the Daily ‘Ohana Mālama was twofold; strategy execution comprehensively throughout the entire organization, and an intention to take the utmost of care that no one was neglected in the responsibility we felt with Mālama. We were going to ask much more of our ‘Ohana in Business than we had been, and there could be no asking without equal doses of giving — or more. We weren’t paying more, but we were giving more, in our attention, in our leadership, and in our commitment to the values of ‘Ohana and Mālama.

Sunday was the only day I did not send out the Daily ‘Ohana Mālama email in the morning. It wasn’t a day of rest in our 24/7 operation though. It was a day to be sure.

Path Three: Sunday Mālama for each of us today

It is the combination of all these past experiences, these repeated efforts with worthwhile work and its ethics, which have affected my own personal values, helping me to both define and choose them. It never was about church, or about business, though those two things were there as framing and packaging. It was about human spirit and values-driven actions which felt like very meaningful work, in that it made a contribution of some kind. That’s what your work experiences do for you too.

Sunday was to be the day we sourced all our values, plugging into them so we could better practice them all week long. We would open ourselves up Palena ‘ole (to abundance, and limitless capacity) paying attention to whichever value may be calling us to it at the time, and we would fortify ourselves for the week to come. Nānā i ke kumu: We would look to our source of well being, and we would Mālama to refresh, recharge, and rejuvenate. My parents were right about those practices, for they do work!

Nevermind that technology and other factors have changed our world; we can still draw from within to feel healthier today, and build on our past lessons learned.

Ho‘omāka‘ika‘i; it may be that we’ll go visiting, meeting others and divining their truth as my dad had taught us. It may be that we get more resourceful no matter our surroundings, using whatever we are given as my mom had taught us, and seeing a kind of beauty in everything — brave, exuberantly showy beauty.

Lobby Lushness

It may be that we ignore the email, ignore the social media and just have more in-person conversations, relying on them to do the good work of collaborative synergy they have always achieved for us.

If we revisit these kind of practices, the ones that good experiences have deposited with us for safekeeping, within the kind of work that improves the basic quality of our lives, I am sure that Sunday will be a day for Mahalo, the value of appreciation, gratitude, and thankfulness for all of the elements which make life so precious to us. Contentment comes from counting those blessings we should not be taking for granted, so we can continue to work on them.

We can make a difference in our world by taking care of our own well being first, living the value of Mālama so that we have more to give. I wish that for you on this Sunday and every Sunday to come.


This post, its intention intact but content substantially edited for new publication today, had originally appeared within another blog I loved dearly at the time, called Managing with Aloha Coaching (circa August 2007 through December 2008). The blog was dedicated to a more in-depth, Hawai‘i-connected study of the 18 values presented in my book, Managing with Aloha, and was written during the pre-recession height of my then-consulting business, an almost frenetic time where my coaching laboratory was flush with activity and new learning both for me and my clients, most of whom remain great friends. As I should have expected from that effort, integrally woven with my own Hawai‘i Sense of Place as it was, MWAC became more personal than I had intended it to be, but in my mana‘o, it was also an immensely pleasing Ho‘ohana blend. I plan to eventually retire the site, and so I am slowly bringing its content here for a co-evolution with Talking Story, where its honored spirit can continue to teach, and be added to, for Ka lā hiki ola, it will always be the dawning of a new day in some regard!

Tab it and mark it up!


  1. Roselia Conrad says

    Beautiful Malama Sunday story, Rosa. And your wedding pics…so special that you shared it with us. Mahalo. I will remember to have more mindful Sundays with my Ohana. and our Sunday customers at the Hot Springs. Love and Light, Roselia

  2. Luke says

    I may lose the count of days during the week, but i always know that it Sunday because i simply i feel so different…And yes i know it before going out and seeing people heading to church !