My mom has a saying, “progress is our most important product”. In my role at the Greater Shreveport Chamber, that saying gets a good workout, both because there is often progress, but also because progress often takes time.
Over the past 12 months, we’ve actually seen a great deal of substantive progress. We’ve welcomed a new Amazon distribution facility, seen work start on the lighting of the Texas Street Bridge, seen businesses reopen, and our economy begin to emerge from the ravages of the ongoing pandemic. We’ve seen resiliency from our businesses, and tenacity and grace from healthcare workers, teachers and frontline employees. We’ve all learned new skills, whether that’s remembering to unmute ourselves on Zoom, bake sourdough bread or recognize each other in a mask.
Louisiana’s frequent encounter with natural disasters has made the need for resilience a fact of life. But while the shock of a hurricane or tornado is both focused and relatively brief, this pandemic has been widespread and drawn out. And yet our storied resilience has allowed us to rally, as businesses, people and communities.
Our Chamber started in 1910 and I’ve remarked to folks that this is actually our second pandemic. The Chamber helped lead this community through the 1918 flu pandemic as well. Just as we did about 100 years ago, the Chamber partnered with organizations across our community to provide information, focus resources and work to keep businesses open and keep them safe. But that fact that this is our second pandemic also provides some perspective for the long game as well. Just as we pine for the pace, freedom and sanity that we felt pre-covid, in the ‘before-times’, our ancestors also had their lives before 1918. And they overcame. In fact, our before-times were their ‘after’. The world we knew in 2019 was their post 1918 world. They experienced similar waves of infection and feelings of helplessness, and yet they built a world that we grew to see as our normal. And we will too.
It may be hard to recognize now, but in many ways, we are already emerging and the darkest days may well be behind us. We’ve figured out how to get on with life in so many ways; not as carefree or unencumbered as we used to be, but we have made progress. Most kids are back in school, churches, movie theaters and restaurants are open, grocery shelves are full. Our hairdressers, dentists and other close contact providers have figured out how to offer their services and still keep everyone safe. We’ve figured out how to hold in-person events that are safe and engaging.
We’re not back to 100% and there are still plenty of challenges before us, but we are up and moving. We are figuring this out. And as we have pivoted, innovated, reconfigured and rebuilt, I for one, have gained a new appreciation for the countless individuals, strangers really, whose everyday contribution makes my world and yours possible. From the checkout clerks, fry cooks and delivery drivers to the business leaders, religious leaders, TV personalities and day care providers – everyone who is showing up and stepping up. Our community works because good people go to work every day trying to do their best. And while it isn’t always, or even ever, perfect, I’m grateful for what we have. That gratitude has a flip side, which is to do my part to help contribute. I’m working hard to show up so I can be someone else’s stranger who is making their world work just a little better.
So, looking back at the past 12 months, we’ve made strides in big ways and small, practical and personal, and we need to continue. Because at the end of the day, if we’re showing up with effort for others and gratitude toward others, then we’re making progress. And you know what my mom says about progress.
Dr. Tim Magner | President & CEO Shreveport Chamber of Commerce