Afterthoughts: Sometimes the Worst Situations Bring Out the Best in People

Cheers to the places that have given us reasons to smile.
Katrina Valcourt

Calling 2020 a rough year would be an understatement. Even before the pandemic came to Honolulu, there was more than enough to worry about: trouble filling key jobs, climate change, illegal vacation rentals, crime rates, cost of living, controversial developments. Throw in the threat of a quickly spreading virus and a broken economy and you get a million people feeling defeated, scared and frustrated.


But sometimes the worst situations bring out the best in people who just want to help. After the initial panic, I saw so many people I knew stepping up in the community, donating money, masks and food. They kept us going, along with our essential workers. But as someone who hasn’t gone out much, the biggest impact I felt was from those who helped make our social distancing a little more bearable. They didn’t have to teach us to paint, guide us through a workout or perform songs for us. But they did, and they deserve honorary Best of HONOLULU awards for it. Here are my picks:


SEE ALSO: How a Global Pandemic Connected us More Than Ever

wear a mask
Photo: Katrina Valcourt


Museums that made their programming available to everyone.

Our kick-ass museums are always pretty great to visit, but their true function, connecting art and history to the masses, has become more interactive than ever. Whether streaming performance art, hosting virtual classes and workshops, or creating digital exhibitions, our local museums have provided knowledge as a distraction, and we’re better for it. I’ve really enjoyed the Hawai‘i State Art Museum’s Instagram posts about pieces in the Art in Public Places collection, many of which I’ve never seen in person. And painting workshops by Luke DeKneef and Keli‘i Beyer have been soothing to watch while writing this column.


SEE ALSO: Check Out Artists in Their Home Studios in This New Quarantine-Inspired Series


Fitness studios that kept us sane and active.

Nothing reminds you that life goes on quite like an expanding waistline. Even without a teacher correcting my form or encouraging me by name, I still felt compelled to try my best when I joined Ward Village’s free Instagram boot camp class. And the endorphins were a welcome break from the constant mental stress.


Individuals who performed small acts of kindness.

Whether it was a ramp built for ducks to get into and out of the water at the state Capitol, a topiary animal wearing a face mask to bring joy to neighbors, a customer paying for the next person’s groceries, or a neighborhood pantry, the little things have turned my days around. Senior fashion editor Stacey Makiya pulled these moments together for a series called Heart of Honolulu. Reading them always made me smile. 


Musicians performing live.

Concerts as I loved them probably won’t resume for some time. This is the part of social life I miss the most. But, thankfully, musicians everywhere have hosted digital concerts, many of which raised money for organizations fighting the pandemic and supporting front-line workers. Jack Johnson’s Kōkua Festival raised just shy of $250,000 for local nonprofits, a portion of which is for programs that promote food security and sustainable local food systems. As much as I love going out and dancing, it’s also been really nice to tune in from home, getting “up close” to musicians I may never get to see in such an intimate setting.


SEE ALSO: Everything We Wanted to Know About North Shore’s Thunderstorm Artis


Restaurants that offered special menus.

Opening a new business in an already saturated market is tough; opening when everyone else is closed is either crazy or a genius move. Beyond the new places mentioned in this month’s ‘Ono section, a few other places popped up to offer comfort eats, such as Noods Ramen Bar and Midnight HI. Who doesn’t want a cookie the size of your face at 2 a.m.?


SEE ALSO: Date Ideas When You’re Quarantined Separately


Surviving is one thing. Coming out the other side of all this feeling good is another. It’s not easy uplifting a community in crisis, but these people have done it for so many of us. So say it with me: You’re the best.




This story originally appeared as “All My Best” in the July 2020 issue of HONOLULU Magazine. Get your copy at and subscribe to the print and digital editions now.