The past couple of years have been challenging on many levels. The COVID-19 Pandemic has been front and center in most Americans’ lives, and as we approach the two-year mark, it’s still affecting us all in one way or another.
With the holidays in full swing, it’s a good time to reflect on things to be thankful for, despite all the challenges. Here are several of the big ones on my list:
Family and friends
If there’s one thing the Pandemic did for me, it’s to remind me of how precious our relationships with family and friends are. “Social distancing” forced a wedge in between many people during this pandemic, but humans are social creatures, we need to keep a bond with our “tribe.” I’m thankful for everyone in my family and my circle of friends who have done their part to keep our bonds strong.
Some households have had an overdose of family time, as the changing work and school situation forced families to spend a lot more time together under one roof than they’d ever done before. While this has put a strain on a lot of people’s relationships, I’m grateful that mine have come through this time intact. Having my adult daughter living at home for almost a full year was wonderful, though we all agreed it was best when she moved back to school to finish her graduate degree.
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Technology and new ways of working
Technology made it possible for most of the economy to keep running even as we weathered the worst of the Pandemic. For many of us it was a mixed blessing- we had to learn new skills such as time management and personal tech support when working from home or using relatively new technologies like Zoom or Teams to meet with friends, clients, and colleagues. On the other hand, commuting far less was a clear silver lining.
Medicine and our healthcare system
The Pandemic continues, and though there are some encouraging trends recently, there’s no telling what COVID will do in the coming months. As we head into the cooler months, the expectation is that we’ll see more cases as people are stuck indoors where viruses can spread more easily. Low global vaccination rates and vaccine resistance here in the U.S. provide lots of pockets for the COVID virus to mutate, so it does seem that another variant is probable. The Spanish Flu pandemic lasted for several years at a time when global travel was much less than it is today.
Thankfully, our healthcare system has risen to the challenge that the pandemic brought. Medical technology today is rapidly developing treatments that can reduce the severity of COVID for those who are unlucky enough to catch it. I’m grateful for all the medical professionals and first responders who have selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to help others during the pandemic.
The booming economy
Despite the damage done to many people’s lives and livelihoods, the US economy has come roaring back. This is in no small part due to the massive stimulus provided by Congress in 2020 and 2021. There may be more coming, but it won’t be as big or as broad as past packages, but it doesn’t look like the economy needs that kind of life support anymore. Inflation is a concern, but the consensus is that it will ease as life gets back to normal and supply chains adjust to new realities. Workers are earning higher wages and corporations are still able to report record profits, so it’s been a decent year for both workers and shareholders alike.
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Economic growth has accelerated since the end of the summer and looks likely to coast into 2022 with a full head of steam, though things will probably settle back down to the 2-2.5% growth trend that was the norm for much of the last decade. And with population growth at about 0.8% and productivity growth around 1.4%, that’s roughly what we should expect the growth rate in the economy to be without some kind of intervention. As the economy decelerates to that more sustainable rate of growth, inflationary pressures should subside as well, so 2022 is looking up to be a pretty decent year as well.
Hope for more unity, justice and equality
The past few years have highlighted some major stress fractures in American society, and not everyone has come through the pandemic in good shape. Workers at the bottom end of the income distribution have really struggled and many racial inequities were highlighted by the stresses and changes brought on by the pandemic. But I remain hopeful that we’ll be able to address these challenges and improve as a society over time.
America will never be perfect, but one constant in American history is a drive to improve and to be better. I’m thankful to be part of that.