The December 13, 2020 issue of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser featured a story by Sarah Firshein about “The sadness of the road not taken.” It was a story about canceled trips and plans due to coronavirus risks.

How many roads, symbolically speaking, couldn’t we take in this grieving and struggling 2020? How many places were we unable to go to be around the people we love due to pandemic restrictions? Our Founder Rev. Dr. Moody asked it in an invocation for his Rotary club this way: ‘In this crazy, locked down, bottled up, socially distanced time in which we live at the moment, one has to wonder if there is any purpose to this global health crisis, if there is any real purpose under Heaven for what we have all had to endure?” Is there?

At Pacific Health Ministry (PHM), we continued our Chaplaincy education work, conducted regular Board and staff meetings over Zoom, participated in Zoom presentations, and shared interfaith peace prayers supporting resilience and well-being in these challenging times. The PHM Chaplains were at the frontlines every day since February, learning new ways to share love and compassion and to inspire hope through layers of PPE, a six-foot distance and often through tele-Chaplaincy.

PHM Chaplains in 11 healthcare facilities became creative in ministering to patients and their families who were not allowed inside the hospitals. The Chaplains also became anchors and beacons of hope for other healthcare workers as the pandemic took its toll. Offering hope and encouragement even led to publishing e-Books holding the daily words of encouragement that our chaplains penned for the hospital staff during this pandemic.

PHM Chaplain Puanani Lalakea, serving at Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women and Children, said it this way: “2020 is a story of resilience and creativity. We figured out how to stay connected; we figured out what is important; we figured out where we wanted to go from here. So, we rejoiced., even though we may not feel like it, because rejoicing reminds our brains that each breath is a gift and each moment is an invitation to join in creating the kind of world our hearts know is possible.

This year we are called to rejoice in a new way. While in the past our rejoicing may have looked different, this year we are called to deeper and fuller and more grounded form of rejoicing. We are called to rejoice at the gift of each smile and each kind word; each sunrise and each sunset; and, of each breath and each moment. We are called to rejoice because in doing so we open our hearts to love, and, when we act with love, we can move mountains.”

That is why Chaplain Puanani suggested “Joy” as a “Word of Encouragement” for the end of 2020. Joy is the exuberance of a child who finds delight in the world even in the midst of challenging times. Joy is the gift we carry in our hearts that enlivens the weary soul. Joy is the ecstasy of being alive and being able to make a difference through the ways we embody love. May the joy of the season enfold you and fill you with peace and hope and light.

As we end this Season of 2020 and look hopefully to 2021 — to a new vaccine, to a reinvigorated world community, to another year of service — I thank all of the extended Pacific Health Ministry Ohana: Chaplains, Board members and supporters for who you are. In this pandemic you have stayed the course.

Happy Holidays and a Blessed New Year.

The word “holiday” originated from the phrase “holy” day; or, a day set apart. This year has been a year like no other; a year set apart from all others. May the 2020 holiday season remind us of the power of kindness and compassion to make each day a “holy” day and each breath a blessing.