The season of community

In a year that has been marked with closing businesses, lost jobs and economic challenges, the season traditionally built on giving thanks takes on a different complexion. With so many of us focused on "what’s next," it can be a bit difficult to churn up the usual feelings of warmth.

And yet a moment’s reflection reveals so much of real, lasting value. Just about every story of economic bad news was matched by another story of how we come together to help those who suddenly found themselves in need. Aloha Airlines workers who continued to meet and offer each other support in the wake of their employer’s sudden closing. Food banks that found extra donations to offer those who unexpectedly found it hard to make ends meet. Neighbors who forged new bonds with those around them who wanted nothing more than reassurance that we are in this together.

Nationally, we learned that a message of hope and common goals can overcome old boundaries of race and gender. A self-described skinny kid from Hawai‘i—hapa like so many of us, the product of an African father and anthropologist mother—can become the most powerful man in the world, despite anger and racist challenges from those who would rather things remain exactly as they always have been. A woman can compete at the highest levels of elected politics, attracting the support of 18 million voters in the most hotly-contested primary in memory, before demonstrating the utmost in class and loyalty by becoming a singular supporter of her former rival.

What should have divided us brought us together. What could have become a deafening chorus of "Me first" grew instead into an irresistible wave of "Us, together." As families, as friends, as a community and as a nation, we showed an almost limitless capacity for sharing, for commonality, and for compassion. We showed the resiliency and strength that can only grow from a confidence in ourselves individually and as a united force against the temptation to surrender.

Whatever the economy has thrown against us, whatever our fates may have delivered, we have stood shoulder to shoulder and faced them the protectors of our community. Our common victory has been in the way that we have remained steadfast, the way that we have fought adversity not with closed fists, but with open hands and open hearts.

I am thankful that I am a part of this community, however we might define it. I know that as the season progresses, I will find myself walking among my friends and neighbors, sitting at kitchen tables and on lanais. Those that have will share, that those who find themselves momentarily unable to contribute will pledge to return the hospitality and the good wishes. No one will count how many cookies get baked or how many lau lau get eaten. We will count how many friends we spent time with, and how many laughs were shared.

This is our season, together, and I cannot think of any other place I would rather spend it.

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