We’re Living in Unprecedented Times


Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, Trustee, Maui

It has become popular lately to talk about unprecedented times. And while it’s true that many challenges we face today are unfamiliar to us, there’s also comfort in knowing that similar challenges have been faced—and overcome—in the past.

As the expression goes, “a light bulb went off,” only this light bulb was not only understanding but an actually brightening of a dark shadow of stress and exhaustion as I began to feel that I—and the world—were not stumbling forward completely blind in this time of great uncertainty and new situations.

Something about the word “unprecedented” in the context it has been used in the media world feels scary, like nobody knows what to do and we are blindly trying to walk through a dark and unfamiliar place. But those two little words, “similar challenges,” suddenly brought light as I realized that when it comes right down to it, no experience we ever go through is truly unprecedented.

“Unprecedented” means that there is no example of how to proceed. Nobody knew exactly how to handle a global pandemic in a world where travel between countries has become so easy and necessary. Nobody knew exactly how to handle all the ramifications of trying to simultaneously keep economies going and prevent people from getting sick.

Think of the early kānaka who were daily faced with the fear of violence, frustration, uncertainty, and feelings of isolation and distance from family and friends they left behind. Those same kānaka faced physical trials during the Overthrow—famine, fear of the government, sickness, discouragement, and many feelings we might currently be dealing with, though the causes might be different. Yet how these individuals chose to move forward in the face of these situations only adds to the precedent that Akua has set: We have everything we need to move forward in faith, and no matter how bleak things seem, Akua is there to comfort us and show us where and how to walk safely through a trial, maybe even with a smile.

Even as time passes and people, circumstances, technologies and life all change, “Other things never change. No matter where or when we live, we all need hope and faith. We all need to be encouraged, uplifted, and inspired. We have always needed that.”

There is something comforting to me in knowing in my clouded moments that others have experienced the same feelings. Even if my ancestors, our early predecessors, people in ancient times, or Akua did not physically live through our specific concoction of a pandemic, financial crises, natural and man-made disasters, death, discord, and unrest, they experienced their own challenges and similar feelings and came through as better, stronger people. Whatever combination of challenges you are facing right now, I hope knowing that they aren’t completely unprecedented will bring you a little comfort and courage too as you move forward toward becoming your own better, stronger person.