The last couple of months have been heart-stirring (and to think that it’s not over yet!). People now see what an unstable balance our society achieves. Who is an essential worker in our economy and what do we truly value as Americans and human beings?

I truly believe that from this pandemic will rise faith and hope and the courage to continue to recreate our communities and ourselves into a more peaceful, happier, and sustainable existence. Speaking as a teacher, the next generation will help us achieve this.

Before this pandemic, I saw inequality everywhere but it was hardly noticed, lurking in the shadows. I saw exploited workers and neglected students, but very few people gave them much attention.

This pandemic shines a light on the truly essential worker. Now, so many see how necessary the grocery store worker is in our communities, the agricultural worker, the nurse and the teacher. Just as 9/11 made us never forget our firefighters and police heroes, this pandemic — even after it is contained — will forever remind us of the valuable role our essential workers — from the ER doctor to the trash collector — play in our daily lives.

Now all across Hawaii and all across America there are people in communities helping each other. There are food banks, like Malama Meals, feeding thousands of people across the state.

The Gandhi statue in Waikiki. “Be the change you want to see in the world,” he said. Flickr: LOLO FROM TAHITI

There are homegrown singers and activists, like Jack Johnson and Jake Shimabukuro, giving free concerts and raising money for laudable causes.

The state government has also been able to slow the spread of the virus through thoughtful legislation that slowed the waves of tourism and maintained social distancing. Our state is a much better place — a much different place — and in spite of the pandemic and all the social and economic setbacks it is the “safest place in the world.”

An Opportunity To Reset

Gandhi is my greatest inspiration. He said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

I believe this is happening right now in Hawaii. We are redeeming the aloha of Hawaii, and in doing so we are inspiring people within our community to stand up and speak out.

It is true that this pandemic has strained many people and that many people are suffering economic hardship. But we must never stop asking questions. We must never be satisfied with simple answers. We must use this opportunity to reset, regroup, reevaluate and reimagine a better society.

Now is the time to raise the alarm. If something is not right or fair, now is the time to speak up, to dig in your heels and demand more, to demand what you know is right and good and without fear. We are being given an opportunity to wrap ourselves in a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.

Anyone who has ever spent any length of time with me knows that I am a troublemaker. It’s true, I often complicate things. But I find this trouble necessary.

As a teacher I have tried to inspire future generations to get into trouble, to question entrenched views and indoctrinated beliefs. And to realize our shared humanity. It’s a job that isn’t restricted to the classroom or the teacher.

Each one of us, at any given time and place, inside and outside of the classroom, is a teacher and a student. So let us teach calm, let us teach strength, let us teach laughter to our keiki. Let us teach them that the world is a good place. That even when circumstances are precarious, people are good.

The next generation will help make society less divisive. There will be less classism and nationalism. There will be more understanding and less fear. Technology will guide us.

Gandhi also once said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

The Bible tells us that we must be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving of one another.

The next generation will help make society less divisive.

Remember that the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate, that’s what we do as humans if we choose. Right now there are doctors and nurses and frontline workers everywhere across this beautiful state taking care of our children, our mothers and fathers, our grandparents, our sisters and brothers, and our friends — our ohana. Let us celebrate them within our communities.

You cannot lose hope in a moment of crisis. You have to believe that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. If not, you will fall into despair. When I look around me — outside the window at the empty streets — I tell myself, “Don’t worry, today is a beautiful day.”

I’m not going to lose my compassion for others. I’ve suffered a lot at the hands of others. But I haven’t given up my belief in the goodness of human beings or the hope of building a better society. And you can’t either.

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