Three years ago, as a sophomore in high school, my son was asked by school college counselors, what he saw himself doing in three years. He blithely replied that he didn’t know because he didn’t have “2020 Vision.” How many of us three years ago would have believed we’d be living in the present “unprecedented” world that 2020 has become?
We’ve had a global pandemic that has killed over 256,000 Americans and resulting economic fallout affecting our state disproportionately due to the collapse of our major industry. Hawaii went from having the lowest unemployment in the country almost overnight to the highest. State GDP saw a 40% drop in the second quarter alone.
Climate change is on fast-forward, exacerbating the impact and frequency of natural disasters — at a huge human cost. The year has seen the biggest fires in history ravage western states with over 4.2 million acres burned in California alone. According to the Congressional Research Service, over 6.8 million acres overall have burned in 2020. A season of non-stop hurricanes — including a near-miss for Hawaii — that required naming conventions to reach into the Greek alphabet for only the second time. Flooding of biblical proportions.
Dumpster fire on top of dumpster fire.
Our daily lives have been turned upside down with parents trying to juggle working from home and overseeing their children’s remote class lessons in stressful days that seem endless. We know that isolation and lack of social interaction combined with constant worry and tension are creating a mental health crisis for many of our islanders.
As the year draws to a close, if you haven’t lost your job or been hospitalized with COVID-19, you may want to gather with your downsized immediate family over a smaller turkey spread and talk about how to turn compassion into action and help so many in need.
Whether you give financially or find ways to volunteer remotely to help your favorite cause, this season it is more important than ever to do it. If downsizing the holidays means spending less money, a meaningful gift can be made, with the whole family joining in the discussion about paying it forward. Find a cause, whether environmental preservation, arts and culture or disaster preparedness, that the whole family can support enthusiastically. Children can write a note explaining why the gift is being made or draw a picture to be sent in with the donation.
Studies show that one’s mental, physical and emotional health benefit from actively helping others. Compassionate acts have been shown to lower blood pressure, lessen depression and enhance confidence and sense of well-being. After you make your gift, go outside, breathe deeply and give thanks for the beauty of our Hawaii and for the aloha of our people.
Diane Peters-Nguyen is the regional CEO of the American Red Cross, Pacific Islands Region.