Finding gratitude in 2020

By Colin Barrett, President/CEO, Tennessee Bankers Association

A few years ago, William had a teacher who suggested keeping a “Thankfulness Journal” to all her students. She wanted her students to think through and write down their blessings from throughout the day. In recent years, studies have been conducted and books written that link the rise of anxiety in our society to our inability to acknowledge gratitude. So, Rachel and I now sit down with William each night to write down three things for which he is thankful. It’s a practice that I have found beneficial for myself, especially this year.

For many of us, 2020 isn’t a year in which we will look back on fondly. I’ve found myself worried about the virus and its health impact on family, friends, and colleagues. I’ve thought often about our economy at large and friends who unexpectedly lost their jobs. And I’ve been concerned about the future of our country as we grapple with racial, social, and political challenges that have no easy answers. 

So, throughout this year, I have made a concentrated effort to spend time each night writing down the times and people for which I am grateful, and I wanted to share that with you. 

First, I’m thankful for the time that I have been able to spend with my family. As with many of you, we tend to pack our schedule with school, music lessons, sports, travel, and more. Being forced to stop was difficult, but it allowed our family to focus on our time together. It also allowed us to connect with old friends through Zoom and phone calls who otherwise we might never have connected with again. In a way, it made us slow down and focus on our family’s priorities.

I also find myself grateful not only for the role the banking industry plays, but the way bankers care for each other. On countless occasions, bankers stopped what they were doing to assist colleagues across the state, many of whom they had never met. One of my favorite stories is of a bank president in East Tennessee walking over to the neighboring bank to help them access ETran.

As was shared by Ted Williams, CEO of TriStar Bank, during a recent virtual Congressional visit, he and his employees received so much fulfillment in making PPP loans and seeing joy on the faces of business owners who had been approved. He’s not alone. I’ve heard the same excitement in voices of bankers across the state.

I have also found myself grateful for Congressional action when our country needed it the most. Partisanship is frustrating, but when we needed Congress to act, they were able to come together with the CARES Act and deploy billions in loans to businesses that were forced to close during the pandemic. And while Tennessee is just one of 50 states, our delegation’s influence and responsiveness led to much of our nation’s success. Couple this with swift steps made by our regulatory agencies to assist banks in helping borrowers, and the industry quickly came together for the benefit of our country.

I’m grateful for our team here at the TBA. For months there were no free weekends or regular office hours. TBA staff worked diligently with our Congressional delegation to pursue legislative and regulatory changes. Our team at Financial Products and Services worked with their customers to make sure they had the tools they needed to care for their employees. Our communications team turned out media interviews and press releases. And our education team quickly pivoted to provide virtual classes at a time when education was of the utmost importance. There were no days off or phone calls that went unanswered. 

And while I actively work to focus on the positive, I am aware there is much pain in our industry. We have bankers who have lost family and friends to the virus. Our prayers go out to you. And the long-term economic impact will be unknown until this pandemic is behind us.

As for our family, we will continue to identify blessings in our life, and I hope you will do the same. We have been through a difficult time, and there will be more to come. However, there is always much to be grateful for.

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