Sometimes, we don’t know how much we miss something until it’s gone.

I learned this the hard way earlier this year when I suddenly had an ear infection one day – ironically on one of the days I interviewed for the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce President/CEO position.

One second, I was happily answering questions and laughing with the board, the next I was struggling to hear anything out of my right ear because it had completely clogged up.

Being a stubborn man, I put off a trip to the doctor. Sure, I called and made an appointment but by that time it would be too late. By late that night, my ear drum had burst, and I lost all hearing in my right ear.

It was at that moment that I realized how good I had it. My girls woke up the next morning and I was unable to hear them say “I love you, daddy.” I couldn’t hear my dad’s voice when I put my phone to my right ear. As I walked into work that day, all I heard was muffled hellos.

It was during the next month that I learned how valuable listening is. I had to really focus on what others were saying, to concentrate and really hear what they were saying. It was a powerful experience, and one that has served me well – especially as we are entering unchartered territory during this COVID-19 crisis.

Now, as the President/CEO of the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce, I’ve found myself once again having to really listen – to hear about the plight our business community is facing and trying to help find solutions.

One of the issues we as an organization have faced is how to handle our signature events. Our first of the year, our State of the Community – sponsored by Windstar Technology, was originally set for March 25. Due to social distancing guidelines we originally pushed it to May 13 – and that date will still be honored, it’s just going to change a little bit. Instead of meeting in person, we will be hosting the event online.

By registering at, attendees will receive a link to the video conference featuring community leaders. For those that already purchased tickets or who have tickets through chamber partnerships, we will be sending out a link this week.

We listened to our membership, who want to stay informed during this time. They need guidance from their community leaders and want to hear how their leaders are addressing the issue. Dr. Tony Brads from Culpeper County Public Schools will talk about how the school system has addressed the shuttering of schools. A representative from Novant Health UVA Health System Culpeper Medical Center will address how the medical field has pivoted during this time. The Association of Social Work Boards will talk about what nonprofits face in the community and we will address the economic impact on tourism and the town of Culpeper.

The Culpeper community is facing uncertain times, so it is even more imperative to listen to our businesses and our members and hear what they need. They are looking for guidance and for information during this period – and we are hoping they gain valuable knowledge during our State of the Community. We hope you join us.

And yes, my hearing has returned, but I still intend to listen more closely.

Jeff Say is the President/CEO of the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at