As I sit on a third story balcony in Princeville, Kauai, looking down at a perfectly designed and landscaped pool area, hearing the joyful voices of children and parents sharing a lifetime memory, amidst the lush green beauty, puffy black and white clouds with recurring rain, then sometimes sunshine and sometimes a downpour, I feel guilty. And that keeps me from enjoying a last minute vacation in what seems, a protected paradise.
I hear CNN in the background and cringe at the new COVID cases caused by people who refuse to get vaccinated and I don’t understand how they are not realising the danger they are to the US population. I hear the startling reports of how fully vaccinated people may be at risk which is beyond frightening because we all assumed after getting the shots, with many experiencing side effects, that we were all safe, for now. But as life always changes, we are startled with surprises of new information that the virus also changes and there is terrifying new information that we have to grapple with: masks again, maybe more quarantine and isolation, and worse, maybe contracting COVID or passing it on to others even after being vaccinated. We are confused and disheartened with feelings of not knowing what lies ahead.
I am here by default because my daughter and granddaughter had plans for this trip with friends who had to cancel at the last minute and only days before, my daughter said, “Mom, you come to Hawaii with us! It’s all paid for!” Is that an invitation you say no to? After the past year of being in quarantine all alone, family and friends were thrilled for me that I had this opportunity!
I could have said no but visions of seeing my beloved Pacific Ocean again and days of leisure with my only decisions to be: ‘what do I wear today?’ and ‘what dish to choose from on the menu?’ seemed, well, a great first outing after the COVID year!
So I packed a few pairs of shorts, tank tops, bathing suits, sundresses and sandals (none of which have been worn since summer 2019) and I was on my way. (I was two pounds overweight on my luggage and played the age card with the check-in guy: “I’m a Baby Boomer senior, please give me a break and don’t charge me the $100.00!” “Okay, senior lady, just this time!”
Whoops! I have to go inside because of the gushing rainstorm!
So as I watch the rain pouring down from safely inside and see people taking cover and waiting for the storm to pass, I think of my favourite phrase: “And this too shall pass.” I try to apply it to the COVID issues but I don’t find any comfort in it because we have no control over the rain but humans have choices to slow the spread of a deadly virus. How long do we have to wait for COVID to pass even though a month ago we thought we had turned the corner with the availability of the vaccine. Were we naïve to believe everyone would think it was a miracle cure?
A man is stuck on his rooftop in a flood and prays to G-d for help. A man in a rowboat comes by and says, “Jump in, I can save you!” “No, it’s ok, I’m praying to G-d and he will save me.” A motorboat appears and the occupants yell, “Jump, we can save you!” “No, thanks, I’m praying and I have faith G-d will save me.” A helicopter flies overhead and the pilot screams, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety!” “No thanks, G-d will save me.” The water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. When he got to heaven he approached G-d and said, “I prayed and prayed for you to save me and you didn’t! You let me drown!” G-d replied: “I sent a rowboat, a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”
We prayed for a vaccine. We got it. But too many have not seen the miracle.
So why am I feeling guilty and at odds with this lovely vacation? I feel sad that while I’m surrounded by tropical beauty others are feeling pain, loss, illness, financial deprivation, upheaval, no hope, despair. And I realise my Jewishness has kicked in. Instead of bringing a summer romance novel to read on vacation, I am engrossed in yet another Holocaust novel (my son wants to know how I haven’t run out of WWII stories to read!) and as I learn more ways Jews, and others, were persecuted, I have this ah-ah moment that “Nothing is new under the sun,” as people in 2021 are still suffering, in different circumstances, but suffering is suffering. I sit in this beautiful part of the world while others are hurting and it affects me. Should I just enjoy my moment and forget what reality is outside of this bubble? I wish I could but it’s how I feel.
I thank my daughter and granddaughter for the lovely memory we shared. But I think when I look back at this time I will still grapple with the juxtapose of being in paradise while others suffer. If COVID has taught most of us anything, it’s that every single person is a part of this situation we have experienced and every decision every person makes affects the lives of every person around them, even if they are strangers. We grieve for everyone who has suffered, how could we not, even if they are strangers. When one hurts, we all hurt. Or, at least, that’s what my Jewish studies have taught me. We may not know the full extent of one’s suffering but when you see a sad face, hear a sad voice or notice remarks that are cries for help, a sympathetic/empathetic response can be all we have to offer. Hopefully, just a “I’m here for you,” will be a cure.
As we prepare for the upcoming High Holidays, let’s all pray for 5782 to be safe and healthy and filled with less suffering with humankind to be there for each other in whatever ways possible. We all need to embrace a bit of paradise….Happy Holidays!…Sandy