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OPINION | Through our resiliency, we can overcome this pandemic

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — "Mom, do you think God created Covid so families could spend more time together?"

My 11-year-old son asked me that last month.

It made me really stop and think. This pandemic has been a painful and challenging time for everyone. Many have lived in fear of getting Covid. The community has mourned the loss of several of our residents who died from the virus, tragically, without their loved ones by their side.

With an increase in testing in the community, we have seen an uptick in cases and now find ourselves back in Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1 lockdown.

Businesses have been forced to shut their doors permanently with no income, and business owners have not only had to worry about how they would pay their employees so they could feed their families, but ensure their safety while on the job.

Unemployment is at a record high and the island's tourism is at a standstill with a dim outlook for the rest of the year.

Guam Memorial Hospital finds itself looking for a lifeline with the increasing number of Covid hospitalizations and growing concern that it will soon be unable to handle the growing number of positive cases.

There is definitely no shortage of setbacks these days.

In these challenging times, information is crucial so we can figure out, as an island community, how to improve the situation and bring back some stability to our island.

What good things have happened?

Back to my son's question, it made me really think.

What good things have happened in the last six months? Could there be a shift in perspective that could get me to focus on the positive things? And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that a lot of good has happened in the last six months.

Personally, I got back in the kitchen to cook and bake. Fortunately, the extra pounds were minimized with regular exercise with my family several times a week. It was refreshing to see so many other families doing the same and it was the middle of August, rather than the start of the year, with New Year's resolutions that normally last a week.

We spent more time together and resumed our family game nights and movie nights.

I used the time for growth —taking online courses and training.

I started learning to read and write basic Korean and watched my first and likely not my last K-drama.

I wrote and applied for grants for the first time in my life and was blessed to be awarded them so our team could continue the important work we provide for the community, especially in uncertain times like the ones we are living in now.

This pandemic has forced us all to pause — to reflect on what is most important to us and possibly realize how much we have taken for granted, how fleeting life really is and how much we have to be grateful for.

A culture so deeply rooted in an embrace or a kiss for every greeting suddenly found itself awkwardly greeting one another with an elbow tap or air hug, or being forced to completely distance from one another.

Parents found themselves trying to figure out how to solve problems and gained a greater appreciation for the incredible work and patience of teachers and administrative staff at school.

We had an opportunity to appreciate the roles of grocery store workers, cashiers, gas station attendants, delivery drivers and many others. They are being recognized for being on the front lines of the pandemic, working day in and day out and adapting to sanitation regulations and serving their customers.

Families started making their way back to the kitchen table for regular home-cooked meals or a family meal prepared by one of the island's many hardworking restaurants that came up with platters to feed families inexpensively and sustain some jobs.

The workers at a hospital often shamed and seen in a negative light were showered with overwhelming support and gratitude from the community, for being the heroes they are and giving them a sense of pride again for working at the island's only public hospital.

Small business owners, at their wit's end, dug deep and managed to pivot and find ways to keep their employees working so they could continue to feed their families.

The island's home for the elderly managed to keep its residents safe and Covid-free while we read of the horrific stories nationwide of entire senior homes being infected with the virus and resulting in hundreds of deaths.

Families struggled to keep their elderly loved ones at home and help them understand why they couldn't receive visits anymore from their grandchildren or attend Mass in church or visit a salon.

 

Guam has always been home to a resilient people. The greatest generation survived the Japanese occupation in World War II. Our tourism industry has rebounded from the Korean Air Flight 801 crash in 1997, the 9/11 attacks and economic downturns. We have been torn down by typhoons and earthquakes. In all of these challenges, we've bounced back and come back stronger.

Our island churches adapted and found themselves livestreaming services to reach their churchgoers, delivering messages of faith and hope at a time when our island residents need it most.

This pandemic has been a test of our faith, our grit, our values, our personal beliefs and more.

It is also an opportunity. An opportunity to pause and focus on the blessings we do have, show kindness and compassion, send an encouraging word and look for the good that is happening amid the turmoil and sadness.

There's lots of talk about whatever the new normal is going to be, or countless people wishing that life would go back to the way things used to be, but perhaps the gift in all of this is that our community is reminded of the very things that our island is grounded in inafa'maolek, which is the CHamoru concept of restoring harmony or order, respect, kindness, a simpler life and focusing on the things that matter most to many: family, faith and health.

Good happens in the middle of a pandemic. The kindness of a neighbor. Appreciation for a teacher suddenly teaching from home to students at home. An encouraging word to a weary small business owner. A smile. A prayer. A family laughing around the dinner table.

Perhaps, this could be the new normal and the start of having meaningful, collaborative discussions with real plans to help our island overcome this pandemic stronger, more resilient, and kinder than ever.

Mindy Aguon is the chief executive officer and editor-in-chief of The Guam Daily Post.


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