Human Footprint

Hawaii has always done New Year’s big, but this year was different. Instead of the usual anticipation, there was a somber feeling in the air. This was the first year that we wouldn’t go to my cousin’s house on the eve, and the first year that the whole family would not gather on New Year’s morning to eat the good luck o-zo-ni or mochi soup.

I was desperate to close out 2020, but I knew that no matter how bad I felt, our family needed to ring in the new year together. So, I feigned optimism, grabbed some poppers, and made everyone climb onto our rooftop for the count down.

The mood was heavy, but our spirits were soon lifted by the vibrant fireworks display. Though we were isolated in our tiny social bubbles, the neighborhood families were launching their fireworks one after another, creating a shared experience. We didn’t have fireworks, but we flung our poppers high in the air. With each explosion, there was a collective release of all the suffering we had endured. By the end of the night, we were all smiles.

While 2020 was a year of near-total destruction, my hope is that 2021 will be a year of rebirth. The virus decimated the economy, political systems, and our families. Rebirth is exciting, but it is also overwhelming.

As a child advocate and parent, I’m especially concerned for our children whose families have collapsed under the pressure of this pandemic. Not only are divorces and custody battles on the rise, but so are reports of domestic violence, depression, addiction, and suicide. It will be years before we truly understand the legacy that COVID has left our children, but one thing is for sure: raising healthy, happy, productive human beings has just gotten harder.

I find inspiration from the environmentalists who changed the world with the simple phrase “carbon footprint.” It was a call to action to individuals, not governments or world leaders, to take responsibility for our planet. We all engage in activities that create greenhouse gasses, but we can offset our own carbon footprint with positive changes. The thought of ending global warming feels impossible, but the thought of doing my part and limiting my own carbon footprint is doable. After all, my carbon footprint is 100% within my control.

Together, We Can Make a Difference

Individual change leads to systemic changes. I would have never thought that Hawaii would require all stores to charge 15 cents for grocery bags and require paper straws at restaurants. Even my father, who doesn’t care about his carbon footprint, brings reusable bags to the grocery store. (He does it because he’s too cheap to pay the 15 cents, but it’s still a win for the environment.)

My resolution in 2021 is to cultivate my human footprint and to inspire others to do the same. It will be a challenge to raise our children to become healthy, happy, productive adults in this post-COVID era, but if we are proactive and purposeful in our words and actions, we can change the trajectory of our children’s lives. It starts with us. Never mind about the other parent!

Imagine if we all said, “I’m not going to recycle until China reduces its greenhouse emissions!”

For my part, I will cultivate my human footprint through this blog. I’ve been a child advocate for over 20 years. I’ve learned so much from the kids, the parents, other professionals, and most of all from all of my own mistakes. I’d like to share what I’ve learned and invite you to cultivate your own human footprint.

For the rest of the year, I will be writing weekly posts that encourage more empathy for our children, which will hopefully lead to parents making decisions that are truly in children’s best interests. In each post, I will ask parents to consider an issue from their child’s perspective. As parents, we believe we make decisions in our children’s best interest, but sometimes we don’t.

I can’t wait to see where we end up at the end of 2021!

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