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The genuine implication of malama

By Staff | Jun 2, 2011

Coach Tom Popdan awarded Presidential Fitness Awards at an assembly on May 20 at Sacred Hearts School. Out of 190 students, Sacred Hearts had ten Presidential Awards and 43 National Awards. Pictured (from left) are: front — Landen McLaughlin, Isabella Lallo, Lexi Anderson and James Johnson; back row — Coach Popdan, Teak McAfee, Sydney Wagner, Nikki Zamani, Giovanna Johnson, Haleigh Berko and Drew Austin.

“A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses.” ~ Chinese proverb

Malama resembles the quote above, because it truly and utterly defines a person’s spirit, morale and overall kindness. Similar to kindness, malama also returns to the person like a boomerang. It spreads among people and changes the way we act towards each other.

Defined, it can mean to care for, to nurture, and to have passion for the land and its people. But we never truly understand the true meaning of malama until we have had a face-to-face encounter with it.

A specific memory comes to mind when I envision the word malama. It was on an otherwise normal day that I witnessed this remarkable random act of kindness towards me. It happened while I was loading the groceries into our car while my mother ran back into the supermarket to buy something she forgot. We had filled up our five-gallon jugs with water, and I was left with the treacherous task of loading them into the car. I had started to lift up one of the jugs when all of a sudden, BOOM! I dropped the water bottle, narrowly missing losing all of the water in the jugs. To add even more to my problem, the shopping cart began to roll away. That was when a lady came out of nowhere, retrieved my cart for me, and helped me put away our water jugs and the rest of our groceries. That was a true random act of kindness. She came out of nowhere, dropped what she was doing and aided me in what I struggled to do.

Another person also seems to come to mind when I think of malama. His name is Edwin Lindsey Jr. He personifies the word malama, creating a whole new meaning for it. His love and dedication in caring for Hawaii’s land has inspired others to follow in his footsteps and practice true malama.

Although I never met Ed Lindsey, I feel as if I know him through his work and malama. As he did with many others, he has taught me to have respect for the Hawaiian culture and traditions. He embraced his Hawaiian heritage and spread his aloha. Ed Lindsey was a remarkable individual among the many truly amazing people in the world. Alongside Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King Jr., Edwin Lindsey Jr. has shown compassion, care, and most of all, malama.

Even though many people come and leave these islands, numerous people are deeply touched by the magic of the land, aloha and malama of the people. In malama, the best shines in every person. With malama and aloha, tourists are greeted and welcomed to these islands, just as the Hawaiians greet the land with respect and deep gratitude.

With all of the media surrounding the word malama and what it means, it is almost impossible to find the complete true definition of malama. That is why we all must look to our own experiences to find the genuine meaning of malama. Whenever I lose myself in the hype and action of the modern world, I think of Ed Lindsey and the land just waiting for hands to dig into and I’m immediately at peace. Malama isn’t just a word — it’s a way of life.

(Sophia won the second annual Lahaina News Writing Contest’s Ed Lindsey Award for this essay.)