Mahalo Nui Loa and Fa’afetai tele lava–the two phrases of gratitude in the languages of my cultures: Native Hawaiian and Samoan.
This Thanksgiving, I am #LMUThankful for my heritage and all I’ve experienced on the bluff.
Growing up in a very traditional Polynesian household had its perks this time of year. There was always a limitless amount of food, an annual family gathering of some sort, and guaranteed laughter and singing. My mother and father were both raised in the villages of Samoa during a time of kerosene lamps, dried thatched huts, underground ovens and an undying pride for “Fa’a Samoa” or the Samoan way of life. Because of this, my siblings and I did not necessarily know too much about Thanksgiving while we were growing up aside from what was taught in school or seen in the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving cartoon (both of which are pretty problematic, if I’m being honest). For my extended family and grandparents, I would imagine that their first Thanksgiving in the states had felt similar to any other family gathering…considering that every time we get together, there is sure to be a massive Samoan-sized feast awaiting.
Allow me to walk you through a typical Samoan Thanksgiving. We usually plan the dinner to start at 2pm…because we know everyone is going to show up around 5pm. When you walk into the house your senses will go into shock from the immediate and intense impact of the smell of traditional and Samoan-American foods being cooked, the boisterous cacophony coming from every generation of the family, and the rush of hugs and kisses as you navigate a jam-packed living room attempting to make it to the kitchen as quickly as possible because you yourself are carrying a huge pan of food despite the additional food being cooked in the kitchen–one would not dare show up with anything less. As you and your family members parade through the house with your contributions, you are bombarded with endless phrases of “Hey cuz!”, “There’s my favorite nephew”, “Did you make my favorite dessert?”, “How’s school?” etc. After you become adjusted to the chaos, you join in the excitement. Soon the last of the guests arrive, the cooking is paused and a prayer is said, a traditional song or hymn is sung, and then it’s open season on the buffet of food. In the Samoan culture, the eldest in the family eat first followed by the young children, and lastly the young adults. After everyone has eaten, the children will play outside, the adults will catch up with one another, and the teens will hang outside. Towards the end of the evening, there will usually be a bonfire where someone will pull out a guitar or ukulele and different family members will sing old traditional Samoan songs. It is one of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching sounds you will ever hear. Eventually people will start sharing their goodbyes and the night will conclude until the next family event.
I chose to share this experience because it very much informs what I am #LMUThankful for this holiday season. I am thankful for being fortunate enough to be a part of such a loud, hungry, and loving family. I am thankful that I was raised to place those who I care about around me before myself and I am thankful to be a product of respect and pride. All these things and more have translated and manifested themselves through me here on the bluff. I have, in my own way, recreated elements of my blood-related family within my Lion family. As I walk down Palm Walk, or into the ASLMU office, or one of my classrooms, or the Den, or the library, or my apartment and am immediately greeted by beautiful smiles and excited embraces, there is a familiar warmth that reminds me of the warmth of home. As a senior, I am in constant reflection of my time spent on the bluff. Time seems more finite now more than ever considering how easy it is to feel that graduation is just around the corner even though there are months between now and then. Every moment spent with my Lion family means so much more and I cannot begin to describe the appreciation I feel everyday for LMU and all its members. Each night before sleep I list out different things I am thankful for, many having to do with the bluff, and I am always in awe of the fact that I rarely ever repeat anything…there is always something more to be thankful for. LMU is unique in the way in which it loves its community. There is a place at LMU for everyone. I am thankful that LMU has never asked me to be anyone more than who I am or was meant to be. It has not only challenged who I believed myself to be, but more importantly has enhanced who I already was and for that I will always be grateful.
Happy Thanksgiving Lions and much Aloha! Stay hungry my friends.
— Ulualo Coleman ’19