“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

In these opening lines of Dickens’ famous novel, readers are pulled into a time of revolution in England and France, which created stark contrasts and sharp divisions among people and made the challenges and conflicts they faced even more difficult.

Right now in Hawaiʻi, in this country and around the world, it seems easy to feel the way Dickens did more than 150 years ago. Like Dickens, we know sharp divisions only worsen attempts to live through this time and work for healing and hope. As he indicates, we can choose to be “wise” or “foolish.” We can be wise—embracing the challenge and finding ways to manage our lives and help others. Or we can be foolish—falling into radical self-interest and giving attention only to our needs while others struggle.

Rev. Elisabeth Eaton, the Presiding Bishop of my denomination, wrote to her members that we need to practice “physical distancing,” rather than “social distancing.” This is a sentiment I’ve heard echoed by religious leaders of all faiths, traditions and practices. While it’s important to protect the physical health of others, it’s also vital that we embrace our emotional wellbeing and social connections during such a turbulent, difficult time.

In my nearly 50 years of ministry and especially those years living in Hawaiʻi, I’ve always been impressed that the core values of all our religious traditions have called people to reach out and serve one another as partners on this journey through life. And as partners, we must not abandon our connectedness, no matter the circumstances.

Throughout the evolving COVID-19 situation, I’ve also been impressed with those who’ve chosen to phone their family members, write letters, or speak across the back fence. There are good people out there who are staying personally connected and engaging with others from a physical distance. Likewise, there are creative folks shopping for those who are sick, showing the grandchildren to lonely grandparents through nursing home windows, and having meaningful conversations around family meals. People are truly coming together.

Amidst the chaos, there are things we can do. We can draw on our powerful religious practices to quell our fears and give us a sense of peace of mind. We can choose not to be islands of isolation, and instead reach out to others. We can pray, meditate, read and reflect. Once this situation passes, we will have a world to rebuild. We’ll have a healthcare system to restore, emotional wounds to heal, and a local and global community to reignite. Now is the perfect time to start thinking and planning for what comes next.

Despite the craziness of today’s world, we are still the people of the Creator and Giver of Life. We are a powerful community with resources to live through this time. We have pastors, priests and religious practitioners who are available, and we have community structures that are still intact and can be accessed. If you feel cut-off from society and not sure where to turn, PHM’s staff are always available to help. Our Chaplain Staff are doing a remarkable job at Hawaiʻi’s hospitals, and they’re still available to support you throughout this time.

May the Great Spirit we call by many Names bring a sense of peace, hope, consolation and comfort to us all. And at the end of the day, may we be the people who choose to live with wisdom and care for this planet and all those who inhabit it.

Rev. Dr. John Moody, Founder, Pacific Health Ministry