Canyons and committees

Ive been back a week in what passes for “reality” above the rim. But my mind is still with the living rocks beating with the rhythm of the universe.
A week at the bottom of the Canyon fills anyone with a brain the size of a pebble with the sense that the earth is alive, every bit of it, all the time, never ceasing. The silent cliffs look down and seem to say, who are you?? For it is only a gnat’s blink of a time that the human experiment has been under way. Everything (except for the humans) here is measured in tens of millions of years. So much that youd never notice there is a whole 500 million layer of geology that is missing here–the “great discontinuity.” A half billion years of mountains rose up and wore away by wind and rain–simply missing. Humbling, even when I celebrated a birthday at the end of the week.
Even a city boy like me can notice fossils scattered on the ground, most of which are 300 million years or, or so. So we are permitted a beginners mind.
Things that look permanent are simply not. The rocks move; entire cliffs, mountain ranges even..move. So why do we imagine that something as ephemeral as a hospital, government or health policy is any less fluid than limestone?
This is on my mind because as I come up out of the canyon back into the rhythms of human change (my day job), I moved into a flurry of emails among a gathering gaggle of people trying to figure out a new way for congregations, government, public health organizations and billion dollar health systems to be together. It isnt magic; its work.
But…….. accepting that change is the way and means of reality does not relieve of us the labor and tasks that go with humanchange. For humans that means (I am reluctant to even type the next word………) committees. And committees need (oh, relieve me!) the frustrating labor of negotiating goals and resources and language and plans.
The purpose is dramatic as any canyon. We are trying to figure out (fast!) how to blend the extraordinary tools of data mining and mapping with the intelligence found in large scale community partnership (such as Memphis CHN). This is all so that we can invest proactively in the neighborhoods. We want to liberate millions of dollars currently trapped in expensive and often meaningless treatment in emergency rooms so that it could be spend where it could actually make a difference in people’s lives. This is so dumb obvious, but still hard–still in committee.
We will work hard with all the diligence and skill we can bring to bear on such a compelling vision. But who knows if our best is good enough? Who knows if our best ideas are actually good enough? We can’t know that; all we can do is give our best. That’s all anyone in any age can do. It is possible that, like the canyons great noncomformity, a whole season of change will raise up a mountain of programs that will wash away in the winds of other seasons. Maybe the Supreme Court will wash it away before we hardly get started. Or maybe they will amount to a geological–political– footnote. 
We can’t know the durability of our efforts, only the integrity and energy we bring to the work. Ours is to craft the agendas for each committee meeting wisely and boldly so that trust has a chance to build; to make sure the right people are present with the most relevant information possible. Ours is to do committee work with the diligence and patience the wind and water bring to the work of crafting a  canyon.
My father insisted that you could tell what a person believed by what committees they showed up at. Inconvenient truth.
When you adjust your mind to the tempo and rhythm of change involved, the committees and conference calls are more endurable. They are the change in motion. We are humans, not gnats or canyons, so we have our own pace, our own time our own scale of hopefulness.
Back to committee…..

About garygunderson

Vice President, Faith Health, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders and Religion and the Heath of the Public. Secretary, Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group).
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