A cornerstone of hope in San Juan County
In Bluff, like most small communities, volunteerism is a way of life. In this town of approximately 250 souls, day-to-day functions like culinary water, fire protection, and government services demand the commitment of a few stalwart individuals.
Having spent most of my life here, I have found myself seated on numerous local, county and state committees and boards with people like Marx K. “The Bishop” Powell.
Marx is the head of the Bluff Water Works, and if something broken needs to be repaired, or if something needs to be done, redone or undone, Marx has the equipment and know-how to accomplish the task. Bluff residents, county officials and even stranded travelers count on him.
Although Marx claims he is named for Karl, most of us believe it is actually Groucho. He is capitalist, not communist, and frequently gets grumpy with those who can’t take care of themselves. Therefore, our conclusion seems sound.
In any case, he is as reliable as the sun and as handy as Tim Taylor, Ty Pennington, Bob Villa, Steve Thomas, and Nate Berkus rolled into one. If Marx can’t fix it, you better just move on.
Conversely, I am the least handy person God ever placed on earth. Consequently, my assignment on boards and committees typically involves working with others who, like Marx, have more expertise and experience than I.
Under those circumstances, I just nod my head in agreement and make supportive comments. When I am in attendance, it’s like being at the Baptist church on Sunday morning; there are lots of Praise the Lords and Amen, Brothers.
The individuals in charge then go about going about what they would have done anyway. So far that approach has served me well, and over the years nothing has gone terribly wrong.
That’s how it was last month when I attended the San Juan Health Care Board meeting. I just kept nodding my head and supporting those who were actually doing the work.
When I began my tenure on the board almost 15 years ago, the county health care system was an ongoing, unmitigated disaster. It has since been restructured and is one of the greatest success stories in the history of the world.
The district now provides top-quality care and has been recognized as one of the top rural facilities in the nation.
Our providers are the best in the region, and we are financially stable. We recently opened a new clinic and are programming a state-of-the-art hospital.
In those early days, however, our Chief Financial Officer, when faced with difficult questions about how we might survive the ongoing crisis, famously replied, “Well, we hope it gets better.”
Somehow, we managed to make it through the difficult times, and during a recent discussion relating to the district’s history, our present CFO confidently announced, “Hope is not a strategy!”
While I generally agree with that statement as it relates to the normal world, I would argue hope is actually the cornerstone of the traditional trading post model and is integral to Twin Rocks as well.
While we have frequently tried planning, we always come back to hope. Every year we hope the Desert Gods will bless us with adequate moisture.
Since we are experiencing a 20-year drought that is the worst the American Southwest has seen in at least 1,200 years, these days we hope even more fervently.
And every day we hope a few customers wander through the store, open their wallets, and purchase a rug, basket, folk carving, or piece of turquoise jewelry.
Hope, you see, is essential to our survival. And it is hope that has sustained us over 30 years.
We are like Lemony Snicket who once said, “Strange as it may seem I still hope for the best even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives.”
And as Pittacus Lore reinforced, “When you have lost hope you have lost everything.” On we go, hoping for the best.
As for planning, we take the Allen Saunders approach and recognize that “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”
So when we find ourselves in a strange place, as we often do, we fall back on philosophical prophet Yogi Berra, who once stated, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
And as we have come to know, not even The Bishop can help fix that.