One of the more positive aspects to come out of this global pandemic is the gratitude many of us now feel for the everyday lives we once took for granted. With it came new appreciation for the routines that became second nature, the idle chitchat with colleagues, the face-to-face meetings that got us out of our workspaces. I hope this appreciation is something we can hold onto as we make our way back to a more foreseeable reality.

Something that may aid us in this endeavor is basking in the joy of presence. Next time you are alone in your workspace, take a moment to close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Listen for the keyboard clacking next door, the quiet conversation down the hall. Listen for the comforting proof that we are back together, that our lives are suddenly rich with the commodity that has been missing the past 18 months: people. With hybrid work schedules and rotating office spaces we may not get as many chances to be present with each other. Appreciate it when you can.

Of course for some, people may be the very source of their persistent anxiety surrounding the return to work. After many months of separation, people are suddenly reappearing in our lives as quickly as they vanished. This is especially true for children returning to schools. Luckily, earlier this week Pfizer announced that it is preparing to submit data to the FDA on the initial results of its COVID-19 vaccine study in school-age children, meaning we are one step closer to putting our worries to rest. So close to the finish line, it is now more important than ever to continue doing what we can to stop this virus from spreading.

In part it is my gratitude for our department, the sacred nature of our missions and even my pedestrian routine that spurs my hope for the future—a future without this pandemic and the wisdom to respond effectively to future threats. In the meantime, thank you for being present, and welcome back.

-Mark

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