September 17, 2018

Me and Cliven Bundy

Me and Cliven Bundy, Bear Creek Guest Ranch

I was with a student this past fall, in a practicum setting, in an office, at the University of Montana. She was a foreign student, a long way from home in Asia, with a rudimentary knowledge of the English language, very soft spoken, and beyond quiet, both in her spoken word and physical presence. I spent an hour each week for two months in a therapeutic setting as we attempted to make sense of her loneliness and isolation in a foreign country and culture. On more than one occasion I saw tears slowly drip down her cheeks, the result of too little communication with the world around her, and an inability to develop new relationships in a strange new world. I happened to be eating lunch one day in the University Center, having grabbed a chair off by itself, or so I thought, and after having a few words with a colleague, turned my head and not three feet from me, alone as well, was the young lady I just described in the words above. I’d been sitting there for at least ten minutes and I hadn’t seen her specifically nor had I been aware of anyone even in the vicinity. All that time, and that close proximity, and I hadn’t said Hi, nor had she.

After a mildly awkward “Hi, how are you?” I went about my business, continued reading, and wondered how I would make my exit without engaging in conversation, an action that is not recommended in the world of therapeutic counseling. The rule of thumb is that counselors don’t acknowledge clients in the “outside” world, but do so if addressed first. And regardless, we keep it short and sweet. After ten minutes or so I made my farewell, quietly, and without what would be for me in other circumstances, a hearty and heartfelt farewell. I just left.

I just got up and left that poor, lonely, and socially isolated girl, in her chair, with no one else around, and I hadn’t said a word to her upon leaving. I was stuck, just plain stuck, caught between a rock and hard place, stuck between the ethics of the therapeutic environment I have pledged an oath to and my own personal creed of human relationship and kindness. But I blew it. I walked out without one word and I left.

There was a next session and I made it a point, right at the get go, to explain my lack of courtesy to her, and to give to her my sincerest apology. I should have acknowledged her as I left the lunch room, even if with just a few words. My actions that previous week should have been exactly what I’ve always felt a kinship to, and that is acknowledging, developing and maintaining relationships with the people around me. I haven’t always been successful but the effort is important, even if it’s awkward, out of place, and in the end, doesn’t work. The plain fact of the matter is that the odds are in one’s favor with even less than one’s best effort.

I’ve been in the guest ranch business for more than forty years and for the greatest part of that time at Bear Creek Ranch in northern Montana. One could make the case for the importance of developing close relationships in the very specific guest business I’m in. That makes alot of sense. The plain fact of the matter is however, that the development and maintenance of personal relationships is a critical component of almost any association, business, team, or gathering of human beings anywhere. The nature of the interpersonal relationships of people in any form can be the defining quality that separates failure from success and from misery to happiness. I’ve seen it in the flesh on too many occasions as I’m sure you have as well, and I suspect, if the truth were known, we’ve all been party to the bad end of relationships that with some thought and effort could have been avoided.

That being said, a huge part of the success that I’ve had at Bear Creek Ranch has been through the growth and maintenance of the relationships that I have been able to nurture over the course of three and a half decades. I couldn’t have made it all these years without many very key friendships that have stood the test of time. Some come and sadly, some go, but the ones that remain are like battle hardened old war horses. I am and always will be eternally grateful for those that are.

Ya’ know, it’s pretty hard to operate in this world, under any circumstances, without some sort of a network of family or friends. I’ve seen that better than ever the past few years and I’ve begun to see the scars that begin to emerge of the psyche of the human soul when one does attempt to navigate the world of the social animal alone, solo. It rarely works. I’m grateful for even the modest success I’ve had and rueful that I’ve left a few in the dust. I guess if one is beyond the middle zone on the graph of human sociability then you’re rolling ahead of the curve.

So here’s to all of you, family and friends, here’s to all of us. Let our days ahead be full of joy and spirit, dignity and faith, and to everyone, the best New Year ever!

Me and Cliven Bundy, Bear Creek Guest Ranch

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Me and Cliven Bundy, Bear Creek Guest Ranch

15750 US-2, Essex,  MT 59916 United States | (406) 226-4489 |

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