kids look at christmas window display (copy)

Kids watch the mechanized holiday display through the windows of the Williams Shop and Goff Sports during the Williamstown Holiday Walk on Dec. 4.

For many, today is a day for joining with loved ones to open presents. It’s also a fitting time, though, to reflect on some priceless gifts we have already received.

Actress, director and producer Elizabeth Banks recently took to YouTube to do just that in a heartfelt message to everyone at Berkshire Health Systems and Berkshire Medical Center for all they have done to protect and care for us amid a deadly pandemic that has stretched across two holiday seasons.

“For nearly two years, our health care workers have carried the overwhelming weight of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, they continue to keep the community safe and make sure every patient is treated with kindness and respect,” the Pittsfield High School graduate said in a video titled “Forever Grateful.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Ms. Banks. Keep these hometown heroes in your thoughts — especially those who care for the most vulnerable among us, staffed vaccine clinics so that this season could be safer than last and or must work tough holiday hours away from their families to be there for others.

Some gifts, produced not in elven workshops but in laboratories, put our society on better footing this winter compared to last. Vaccines, as they always have been, point the way out from under COVID’s heavy weight. The Berkshires’ vaccination rate of 71 percent, just behind the Massachusetts rate of 73.3 percent, means a supermajority of our neighbors have given themselves, their loved ones and their community the gift of an effective shield against this viral enemy. This gift of safe, effective protection is both free and priceless.

Meanwhile, federal health regulators have approved the first pill against COVID-19 that stands to significantly curb the worst outcomes for those who do contract the novel coronavirus. While it would be a bit dramatic to call it a Christmas miracle, the takeaway from medical experts sounds promising: “The efficacy is high, the side effects are low and it’s oral. It checks all the boxes,” Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic told The Associated Press. “You’re looking at a 90 percent decreased risk of hospitalization and death in a high-risk group — that’s stunning.”

Taken together with the cautiously optimistic initial data suggesting that the now-dominant omicron variant appears to present more mildly in general, all of this positions the Berkshires and the nation for a big step in the right direction of vanquishing COVID in the quickly approaching new year.

Sometimes, though, the act of giving in itself can be the best gift. We’re filled with cheer to see that so many of our neighbors agree, as evidenced by the Jingle Bell Run that came roaring back after last year’s hiatus. The fundraiser gives a boost to The Eagle Santa Fund, an annual nonprofit effort in its 93rd year that aims to help families in need give their kids a joyful, and toy-full, Christmas. With the haul from this year’s Jingle Bell Run, The Eagle Santa Fund was poised to reach its goal this year of $45,000.

All of these gifts are of a kind with the spirit of the season: hope. With all that has tested us over the last couple years, we are glad to see that’s a gift that keeps on giving within our Berkshire community.

The Eagle wishes all a Merry Christmas.