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Pacific Ponderings

Aloha in a Time of COVID-19

Over the past couple weeks, the title of a novel by the Columbian Nobel Prize-winning author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, has often come to mind: Love in a Time of Cholera. We live in a time of COVID-19. How do we share aloha during a pandemic that requires us to practice social distancing? Social distancing is critical to our community’s health. Along with frequent hand-washing, it is one of the most effective ways to avoid becoming infected from the coronavirus.

Yet we are a community that shares aloha through touch. We traditionally greet each other with warm embraces, handshakes, and even kisses on the cheek. We cannot love each other this way in our present circumstances. We need another way to share the aloha that fills our hearts, often to overflowing, even and perhaps especially during this time of pandemic.

A faculty member suggested that we share aloha by exchanging the shaka. I endorse this suggestion. The shaka originated here in Laie with Hamana Kalili. What better gesture to substitute for handshakes and hugs than the shaka? Let us greet each other with a warm “aloha” and shaka to bridge the safe distance between us. This is how we can share aloha in a time of COVID-19.

It is so important that we do not lose the spirit of aloha during the pandemic. I have often been struck by a single verse in the Book of Mormon about the effect of prolonged war. The same suffering and upheaval brought about exactly opposite effects. lt hardened some hearts and softened others (see Alma 62:41), depending on how people responded to their adversity.

Historically outbreaks of the plague or cholera or flu or other epidemics have brought out the worst and the best in communities. They have led to withdrawal, isolation, suspicion, and scapegoating. They have also brought people together in caring, sacrifice, service, and love. Let us be such a community! This is a time to minister and care for each other in our afflictions. Let us be people who respond to the pandemic in a way that refines us and cements social bonds. Let us learn to love in our time of COVID-19.