When Adaptation Becomes the New Normal

When Adaptation Becomes the New Normal

By Chip Cooke  |  Audit Report 57

When I sat down to write to you, I promised myself that I wouldn’t fall into the seemingly new narratives – a new normal (sad as it is), life as we once knew it – all of the negative emotions that have come with the pandemic of 2020. Instead, I wanted to focus on silver linings and all of the joy and grace I have witnessed from March 2020 until now.

Obviously, no one could have imagined what this year would bring as we cleaned up from the 2020 New  Year’s celebration just over nine months ago. In early March, the TMA extended family started to recognize the hard truth that life was changing due to the global pandemic. As I look back on my calendar, I was still making trips to Indiana, Washington D.C., and Maryland. We were connecting with clients across the country and revising forecasts and manpower estimates to ensure 2020 would be the best year ever for our employees and clients. Life was certain, and schedules were secure – our day-to-day seemed normal.

In early February, all of that certainty changed. Whispers of a new virus began to capture national attention. By March, air travel was restricted and President Trump began issuing orders for a national state of emergency. In the third week of March, North Carolina closed its schools, churches, restaurants, and public spaces, sending everyone home to live under a state of quarantine. Every other state was doing the same. Life had suddenly and abruptly changed for the worse.

It was about that time that our local church began a morning online prayer service – at the time I had never heard of Zoom. We began to connect again on a daily basis and resolved that we could get through this together. Easter services for my family were celebrated in the local cul-de-sac with a small group of socially distanced friends. Parents had become school teachers, coworkers joined online calls together via their kitchen tables and we slowly but surely did our best to return to normal business practices. TMA applied for relief under the CARES Act, and we were blessed to keep all of our employees on staff during one of the most difficult parts of our history. Throughout the summer, we slowly started to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Are we there yet? No, but at this point I would say that the ship is secure and we are able to perform at the highest level possible given the circumstances. My children went back to school this month, although on a staggered basis. Our churches are still closed, but online attendance is at an all-time high. Gyms are slowly reopening, but I see more friends than ever walking the streets of the neighborhood on a daily basis. TMA is open for business and we have continued to come into the office every day since the Phase One restrictions were lifted – life is getting back to normal.

At least every other day I am asked by a colleague, supplier, client or friend – how are things going with you? How is business? I always try to break that answer down into the various parts of my life.  Business is going well – we have exceptional clients who have not missed a beat since this pandemic started. Our government clients and friends may be working from home, but they are working hard and working well. Almost all of  TMA’s clients have not only stayed the course, but have accelerated their efforts to support their day-to-day support of the taxpayers within their jurisdictions. I have nothing but the utmost respect for each and every one of our clients across the United States and what they have been able to accomplish during the most unpredictable year of my life.

As for my family, we have been blessed to fall into a predictable pattern. My son told me the other day, “Dad, I like the chance to spend more time with you and Mom, but I miss my friends and I don’t like the mask. Will this be over soon?” Small moments like those, when you can assure a loved one that hope still abounds, is what keeps us going (and yes, it will be over soon). I have seen countless examples of that grace over the past six months. Our local church has had record levels of COVID-19 dedicated dollars flowing into relief efforts. Friends are checking in with one another and families are having Zoom birthday parties. Human beings are resilient creatures and adaptation has become the new normal for us. Is this difficult – of course it is. Will we get through it? – yes we will.

I hate that I haven’t been able to see everyone over the past year. I miss all of the conferences, the social time, and the chance to exchange ideas and build new relationships. I promise that when things calm down we’ll be right back to where we were in 2019 and trading stories about what we did during the global pandemic. Until then, stay safe. Know that you and yours are in our prayers and we will continue to do everything we can to make life as normal as possible.

For those who just can’t wait for the face to face, I’m just a Zoom call away!