During times of crisis, it’s human nature to want to go out to help. But when the rules require us to be separate it’s practically impossible.
A few weeks ago, Lanikai resident Andrea Jepson — feeling this frustration — threw out an idea to members in her book club, which they eagerly embraced: a Friday night “sound out” to thank all the essential workers risking their lives to keep the rest of us healthy.
Not the same as doing it in person but an attempt to give support from a distance while lifting the spirits of the neighborhood.
Like the people in Rome who took to their rooftops and balconies to sing arias from famous Italian operas to express their gratitude to the exhausted medical professionals. Like neighbors in Marin County, California, howling at the moon in unison as their own way of saying thanks.
“People are doing it in other places. I thought we should do something, too,” said Jepson. “Hawaii is known as the Aloha State; we are always thanking people. This is an extraordinary time. We need to acknowledge the people working for us in spite of the danger of contagion.”
Jepson says the Lanikai Book Club members used social media and their personal email lists to get out the word to start Friday, April 3. But the sound out really didn’t take off until the appointed time of 7:30 p.m. this past Friday.
Then from the hills to the seashore of Lanikai, Jepson said, you could hear shouts, screams, conch shell blowing, music blasting from stereos, bongo drums, kazoos and people joining together to sing.
Jepson made music on her Tibetan “singing bowl” to blend with sounds coming from the balcony of her nextdoor neighbor, who was banging a metal spoon on a spaghetti pot.
Heidi Wilson took her iPad out to Mokulua Drive and turned it up as loud as she could to play Manao Company’s “Spread a Little Aloha.” A Hawaiian family living across the street came out of their yard to sing along with Wilson.
Until then, Wilson said they had hardly exchanged more than a few words. “It was a really nice moment.”
The Hawaiian neighbors agreed with Wilson that her iPad was not producing enough sound for the rest of the neighbors to join the singing and promised to share their stereo system this Friday to amp up the music.
“More than ever in my lifetime — and I am 70 — I feel connected to the world and to my neighborhood and my neighbors,” she said. “We are all in it together even though we are separated by circumstances. It is an opportunity for us to connect in new and different ways.”
The community sound out is meant to thank the doctors, nurses and EMT personnel as well as restaurant cashiers, postal workers, bus drivers, clerks putting items on the shelves, fast food workers, anybody interacting with possibly virus-infected members of the public.
Book club member Denise Drake said she played her tambourine and turned up her stereo loud to play the Beatles’ “Let it Be” while shouting and dancing by herself in her yard.
“Fault Lines” is a special project that throughout the coming year will explore discord in Hawaii and what we as a community can do to bridge some of the social and political gaps that are developing. Tell us what you and your neighbors are doing to help each other, especially during the coronavirus outbreak. Send to email@example.com.
Drake is an elementary school teacher who has lived in Lanikai for 15 years. She said while she was dancing alone she was listening simultaneously to a cell phone call with one of her students and the student’s family in a nearby home, playing guitars, singing and beating on bongo drums.
“It was a happy moment. A positive way of connecting so we don’t forget during this time who we really are,” she said.
Her student, 13-year-old Sylvia Kay, had made one of the signs to alert the community of the upcoming sound out.
“The doctors and medical people definitely deserve and need the support from people like me. The sound out was so much fun. My heart was full of joy,” said Kay.
Joining in from Kailua were the members of the famed music group Puamana. “What a small and humble way to honor our first responders, our essential workers,” said Mihana Souza.
She said she went out to her garden to blow a conch shell in harmony with her sister, Aima McManus, and friend Chenoa Salmon.
“It was awesome when we were outside blowing our shells for 4 minutes,” Souza said. “We are going to keep doing it. This Friday and every Friday.”
“More than ever in my lifetime I feel connected to the world and to my neighborhood and my neighbors.” — Heidi Wilson
And that’s the plan. For Kailua and Lanikai participants and anybody else in the state who wants to join in to make a grateful sound for a few minutes at 7:30 p.m. every Friday as long as the stay-at-home order lasts.
Wilson says, “This is a situation that has been forced on us, but I see a positive outcome. Most of us have kept ourselves so busy before, this is time to catch our breath and reset ourselves and refocus on what’s important, how we want to live our lives.”
Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.