If you’ve seen Lilo & Stitch, then you know ohana means family. Most of the people I meet outside of Hawai`i (or visitors to Hawai`i) have a limited idea of family. I have a different frame of reference.
My family is not just people I’m related to by blood. They are people who are in my life and a part of it.
I have a best friend who is like a soul sister to me and her mother is my Mom. I have two older “brothers” who looked out for me throughout our college years together and then some. I have young men I used to work with who call me Mom. I have younger friends that lovingly mother and they in turn call me Mamasan.
Family isn’t just about shared genes. It’s about the people who you love and who love you in return unconditionally. It’s the people who watch over you and whom you watch over. It’s those that touch your heart over and over and over again. Those that you worry about most. Those that make you smile just by walking in the room.
Ohana are the people who you go to for support and encouragement when you don’t have family that can or will uplift you when you need it most. They are your loved ones. The ones that will always have your back. The ones that you can depend on to follow through.
It’s okay to consider non-relatives your ohana. There is no shame in it. I feel having ohana who aren’t related to me by blood or marriage is an even bigger blessing. We don’t get to choose our relatives, but we can choose our ohana. Sometimes relatives are ohana. Sometimes they aren’t. Some of us spend a lot of time looking for the approval and love of relatives that we will never get. Some have never had their relatives involved or even know where they are and spend a lot of time in search of them.
While you are looking for the family that was never there for you or family that you lost, your ohana might be right in front of your face.