Getting Back to Better

April 13, 2020Doug Peters, President and CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

Who in the world would’ve ever thought just a few short weeks ago that our world could change so rapidly.

While many of us have contingency plans in place for most things that can affect our “normal,” I don’t think any of us envisioned a worldwide crisis that clamped down on our daily routines the way this pandemic has.

In all my years doing business, community and economic development, I thought I’d seen it all.  Dealt with it all.  Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards…those things came and went, and left a path of destruction in their wake.  Those events moved in rather quickly, did their thing, and moved on, leaving impacted communities to mop up, clean up and move on.

This one, folks is quite different.

There’s no real playbook on how to shut down a society while minimizing economic damage. If you really stop and think about it, our community has done a remarkable job, despite the long sleepless nights and while managing the uneasiness of a situation that’s new to all of us.

I want to take a second here to thank the folks I’m privileged to work with each day. The same people, frankly who have proven my own personal heroes through this crisis.

I’m talking first about you, our Chamber member. My reason to get up every day, to find the spring in my step, to put on my happy face and to do my thing for. Y’all motivate me. And once again, you’ve inspired me. Beyond measure. And as hard as it is to watch people’s hard work begin to crack, I’ve watched many of you work hard to ensure that hard work didn’t crumble.

I listened to people who were worried about their future put the worry behind them and step up to the plate and swing for the fence. I’m not sure that’s solely human nature. I truly believe most of it is an “Abilene thing.”

I’ve witnessed the Chamber’s elected leadership, those chosen by you to represent your interests in the Chamber as we operate the area’s chief business advocacy organization, make sound decisions on behalf of our members. And those decisions are worthy of praise from all of us.  In short, we are fortunate and thankful to have unmatched leadership among our board. And I’m grateful for it.

I’ve watched the dedicated professional staff that surrounds me each day spring into action, without regard for job responsibility, balancing the expectations of our members with the proactive measures we’ve all worked hard to provide you all while working remotely, in many cases without the necessary tools we’re accustomed to, to fight like mad to provide timely and accurate information, resources, motivation and inspiration. Wow.

And of course I’m talking about our local government, early childhood educators and healthcare leaders.

Sure, they’re doing what they’re supposed to do – governing, providing care and education and protecting us. But to do that, without flinching despite the conspiracy theories and the armchair quarterbacks second-guessing every move they make is impressive. And inspiring. At the end of the day, their jobs aren’t easy.

And that brings me to the point of this morning’s article.

Through the haze of this crisis, our community is performing. We’re not just getting by, either. While we’re undeniably hurting and apprehensive about the days ahead, we’ve done what Abilene does.

I’m unapologetically proud of my city. I’m super grateful for everyone who’s taken the time to help the Chamber help our businesses. And I’m constantly inspired by the unwavering “let’s do this” attitude of our business community, our elected leaders at all levels of government and the men and women on my staff (your staff) who help me help you.

But get this: helping you is what we do every day, and in some ways you may not realize. While this crisis is far different than our day-to-day, serving as your advocate is who the Chamber is.  And has been for more than a century.

We’ve written countless letters to our government leaders, respectfully asking for consideration to get you through this crisis. We’ve had dozens of Zoom meetings and conference calls to not only collect information to support you, but we’ve also used those moments to tell your story. People are listening, because when a collective voice of nearly 2,000 enterprises speak, attention is paid.

All of those things – the determination, the “can-do” attitude, the helpers helping helpers, the tireless leaders…they’re all going to continue to do what’s necessary to make this bearable. For all of us.

I’m reminded of a small plaque on a park bench that references a Bob Marley song. That little plaque should be a reminder to all of us: “Don’t worry about a thing. Because every little thing is going to be alright.”

It’s impossible to not worry in times like these. But just know that together, Abilene is going to be alright. Let’s not focus on getting back to normal. Let’s instead focus, collectively, on getting back to better. Better than we were before all of this. I have no doubt we can do exactly that.

Onward!

Doug

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