During the past two and a half months of lockdown, I’ve had a fair amount of time while walking the neighborhood or taking breaks from working at home to ponder life, and I’ve come to some interesting realizations.
Here in Hawaii we’ve been fortunate because COVID-19 has not killed very many people at all locally—only 17 deaths as of this writing. And yet I hesitate to state it that way, because each one of them was a precious fellow human being. My heart goes out to the families, friends, and loved ones of those who were affected. They each had a mother and a father (whether or not they were close, or ever even knew them). They all meant something to somebody. WE ALL mean something to somebody.
However, at this same moment, New York has already had over 24,000 COVID-19 deaths. This also hits close to home for me because I lived in New York City for six years during and after law school, and I still have many friends there. The attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 happened while I was in law school, and it was a horrific tragedy to see friends and co-workers directly impacted by that act of terrorism. I imagine that historic event might have felt surreal to many Hawaii residents—almost like a dream or something happening in a movie. Perhaps it seemed like an event in a remote country in an obscure corner of the world.
Maybe this coronavirus plague feels like that for many of us here in Hawaii. We read about it on the news and online, we see it on TV, but it’s not directly killing many people right here before our very eyes.
This is not to minimize the economic impact that we were all feeling on account of the required safety precautions we’ve had to endure. Nor is it intended to minimize the pain and suffering felt by those who have been involved in and affected by recent riots and protests throughout the country. Many of our fellow citizens are struggling to survive economically, socially, and even physically.
And yet, sometimes even things that we know to be true don’t feel real to us in our daily lives until there’s a direct impact on us. For example, every one of us knows for a fact that, “Someday, I will die.” But almost none of us go about our daily lives acting like we believe that fact. We typically push the thought away or set it aside as some undefined, remote future possibility.
I am guilty of this as well. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, boredom, and rhythm of our weekly schedules—work, friends, family, hobbies, what to eat, where to go, how to save and invest for the near future, or our kids’ college tuition, or retirement. But what if we never even make it that far? What if tomorrow were to be my last day on this beautiful, blue speck in this small corner of the universe?
What would I be most concerned about then? I’ve come up with three things that I think are of utmost importance.
First, I would want to be sure that I had adequately planned and provided for my family to make the transition as smooth as possible. Of course, there’s the obvious: Making sure I have enough life insurance, and setting up my will and trust to provide for them financially. But it would be equally important to me to write my loved ones a letter to tell them how I feel about them, and share my values with them.
Second, I have come to the conclusion that it’s so important to live your life true to yourself and your dreams—not how society or others want and expect you to live. There are certainly considerations like fulfilling responsibilities and obligations you’ve committed to, but it does not matter how old or young you are. You can do what your heart yearns to do. I know that it’s easier to put off pursuing your passion until someday in the future when it’s more practical. That day might never come. If you’ve always wanted to play the guitar, learn to paint, try surfing, or win a fencing championship, don’t wait to chase that dream.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, treat others with love and respect. Aloha and Hō’ihi. Not just those who are like you. Everyone. And everything. It might seem that civility is all but forgotten. Society feels broken. You might despair at the state of the world that’s portrayed by the news. But all is not lost. Most people are still decent. Most people want a better world. We might be frustrated, feel unheard and misunderstood. Nevertheless, everywhere you go in the world, we and they are fundamentally the same. They just want food, shelter, safety, meaningful work, to love and be loved. We all want these things. Remember that despite our political, societal, economic, or racial differences, we all deserve respect and consideration.
May we all take some time regularly to ponder on the importance of these things; to give others the benefit of the doubt; to treat each other well even if it’s not reciprocated; to live our lives joyfully in a way that we can proud of; to prepare for those final goodbyes; and, in the end, to be able to hold your head up and smile while fondly reminiscing a life well-lived.
© OKURA & ASSOCIATES, 2020