We all have a moʻolelo (story) to tell…..
Originally from Maui, Hawaiʻi, I spent my childhood watching my grandparents run their lei business, “Leong’s Leis”. My grandfather would climb the plumeria trees and pick flowers, while my grandmother made lei. I would help collect the plumerias that fell to the ground, and occasionally would be able to make my own lei with the leftover flowers that “didn’t make the cut” according to my grandmother. I’d help them deliver lei to Ooka’s Supermarket (now a community health center) and Star Market (now Wholefoods). I was always so proud to see their beautiful creations hanging in the stores.
Fast forward to the present, and here I am in Boston, with my husband and 7-year-old son. I found myself truly missing home and my culture. I started teaching lei making classes at my son’s school as a fun way to teach students and teachers about Hawaiian culture. The lei making never stopped after that. I made lei to give to teachers to show our appreciation for a Covid challenging school year. I made lei to give to friends and family for birthdays, celebrations, graduations, and just to make them smile. I even made lei to give to strangers! The joy it gave to me and the people receiving the lei was magical. So, I thought to myself, keep doing it! Spread the love, or what we say in Hawaiʻi, “spread aloha” and why not do it here in Boston?! After all, we all could use a little more love in this world, and a lei can remind us to be kinder and better human beings to each other.
We have a saying in Hawai’i, “Make a lei, give a lei”. My grandmother did just that. She would make a lei every day to wear around her neck with the full intention of giving it to someone she would bump into that day. That is the beauty of a lei, to make you or someone smile, to feel loved, to feel special, to be acknowledged. I hope to honor my grandparents by making lei here in Boston. If I can make you smile, and give you a little love, then I have done my job.
Mahalo Florence and Noah Leong for this special gift you have given me. Mahalo to my family, friends, and strangers who have inspired me to not be afraid of sharing a little aloha in this world.