Mar 14, 2021 • Written by Indigo Sahara
ALOHA, A CALL FOR GRACE DURING POST-LOCKDOWN REINTEGRATION
“Aloha,” said the flight attendant as I hastily exited from the plane in January. “Be sure you have all of your belongings, and please wear your mask through the airport to baggage claim.”
At the time, I understood “aloha” as the mere Hawaiian word for casual hellos and goodbyes. I was excited to hear the word, of course, because it meant that I was officially on the envied island of Maui.
Maui (and the state of Hawaii overall) has enforced relatively strict policies over the course of COVID-19: negative testing prior to arrival, health questionnaires, temperature checks, mask mandates — you know the drill. Although they rely heavily on tourism for their state economy, they also comprehend the massive risk of an uncontrollable outbreak as an isolated island in the middle of the Pacific ocean. As a result, Maui has been able to maintain an extremely low number of cases.
To be honest, COVID-19 seemed to be nonexistent in Maui. For the first time in 10 months, I had the liberty of eating indoors, visiting popular tourist destinations and standing within six feet of strangers without my OCD reminding me of my upper respiratory issues.
Perhaps it was adrenaline. Perhaps it was God gracing me with a mental health break.
Either way, it felt really strange, and it made me realize how difficult it’s going to be for me and the rest of the at-risk population to reintegrate into society after we are finally released from continental isolation.
Yes, we all want our old social lives back. None of us want to be stuck in solitude anymore. But, here’s the thing: social reintegration is not a light-switch.
Because we’ve been paralyzed by this new normal, the lives that we once considered normal are now abnormal and solicit renormalization.
I pray that we, the body of Christ, can approach this upcoming social reintegration with the exact grace we preach, understanding that some people will need more time to mourn, reflect and re-enter into society than others.
Paul puts it this way: “...As you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you — see that you excel in this act of grace also” (2 Corinthians 8:7).
Can we commit to excelling in grace this year? Can we commit to:
- understanding that our friends may not be at the same level of reintegration as we are?
- reaffirming our friends’ good stewardship of their physical health?
- validating our friends’ concerns about protecting their loved ones?
- broadening our worldview as it pertains to “COVID paranoia”?
- and relaying Good News and Love above all else?
As I stepped into the jet-bridge in Kahului Airport to depart from the island, I was met with another flight-attendant “aloha.” However, this time, I knew that “aloha” was much more powerful than a friendly greeting.
You see, "aloha" is actually a combination of two other Hawaiian words: "alo" and "ha."
"Alo" directly translates to "face" or "front" in English, roughly translating to the meaning of "shared presence" (AKA the front you put on for others). "Ha," short for the Hawaiian word "hanu," means breath.
"Aloha," then, literally means "to share breath."
When we say "aloha," we are expressing gratitude for the opportunity to share presence, breath and spirit with someone else. While we wait patiently for our next opportunity to share physical presence, let us share the spiritual presence of aloha through the steadfast love of Christ.