Romeo Cruz ProfileSilver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce Director Romeo Cruz will provide a weekly column to the Beat, featuring items and announcements of interest to the community.

Stay the Course

When I was a kid, we always left the tree up for a few days after Christmas. When the needles starting falling off into small, green piles where the presents used to be, my dad would give the order and we would take it down. One year, the tree had been screwed into the stand so tight that I couldn't get it to budge, and even with my friend's help, that stand remained firmly stuck into the tree.

My grandfather came in and saw us struggling with the tree and the stand. He was a merchant sailor, and he had little tolerance for weakness.

"What are you doing?" he said. He watched us with a mixture of amusement and scorn.

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The Roadmap of a Successful Entrepreneur

Sarah Breedlove was the orphaned daughter of former slaves. At seven years old, Sarah worked alongside her older sister in the cotton fields around Vicksburg, Mississippi. She was married at 14, a mother at 18, and by the time she reached the tender age of twenty, Sarah Breedlove was a widow, and a few years after that, she suffered through a scalp condition that claimed most of her hair. Few could argue that the deck wasn't stacked against her. It would have been easy for Sarah to give up, accept her lot, and quietly eke out a miserable existence, enjoying fleeting moments of joy or comfort.

Sarah didn't do that. Sarah got to work.

While searching for remedies for her scalp condition, Sarah began to formulate her own hair care products. After marrying Charles Joseph Walker and moving to Denver, she started her own business, selling Madame Walker's Wonderful Hair Grower. She travelled across the Deep South, selling her products door to door and demonstrating their effectiveness wherever she could gather people to watch. She founded a school for "hair culturists" and trained associates who would use and sell her products across the country.

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Let's Give Thanks and Count Our Blessings

There was a time when Lou Gehrig was one of the most famous men in America. He and Babe Ruth made the New York Yankees the terror of Major League Baseball, with more home runs between the two than entire opposing teams. Gehrig's records stood for decades. The Iron Horse played 2,130 consecutive games, a record that stood until Cal Ripken, Jr. broke it in 1995. But today, people know his name for a different reason. His name is synonymous with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

In 1939, The ALS had taken its toll on Gehrig's body, and his health began to fail. He played his last game on April 30, 1939. On July 4, Gehrig was honored at Yankee Stadium.

It would have been easy for Gehrig to bemoan his fate, to concentrate on what ALS had taken from him, but Gehrig didn't do that. With his health failing, his ability to play baseball stolen from him by his condition, he took to the field one last time. Addressing a crowd of 62,000 fans, Gehrig said:

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Together We Are Strong

There is a tendency to look at life with a sense of impending doom, and see only the disaster and misery in adverse situations. As the saying goes, a pessimist is never disappointed.

I don't want to be a pessimist.

Certainly, we can look at COVID as a terrible disaster, a heavy blow to what had been a robust, thriving economy, a lost year for our children as they spent their days isolated from their friends and teachers, the normal course of their learning interrupted by closed schools and stringent mitigation policies. We can look at the death tolls and the infection rates, the overflowing hospitals, the empty stores, and conclude that the end is near, that civilization itself is on the brink of collapse.

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It's Not How You Begin, It's That You See It Through

I spent my high school years running the halls, more concerned with having a good time than with getting a good education. And we did have a good time. We dodged teachers and assistant principals, got into a lot of trouble, and had a lot of laughs. It really was fun to go to school every day because every day there was another adventure to be had outside of the classroom. We did just enough schoolwork to satisfy the requirements and keep our parents from coming down too hard on us. If I really got into a bind, I had good friends who would help me out, and I'd do the same for them.

It was a good time. We graduated with our class, made our way out into the world, and instead of more fun, we got something else. I have a theory that life has a very large slap in the face in store for every single person on the planet. After high school, I discovered that there aren't very many employers looking for hall runners.

And so, I worked at many difficult, often menial jobs that paid well, but didn't offer anything aside from a steady paycheck. At the time, I didn't mind too much. I still had weekends to party and cruise with my friends. Life was pretty good.

I guess life decided to hold back on that slap in the face for a long while, but it came, very suddenly, and very painfully, when my children came. When I looked into my daughter's eyes for the first time, I wanted to give her the world, to open her eyes to all its beauty, to provide her with every opportunity to make the most out of what the world had to offer.

And I couldn't.

The jobs that had sustained me just fine in my younger years simply weren't enough. I needed something more, something that would lead to opportunities for me, so that I could open doors for my children. What I needed was education. The thought was intimidating. Somewhere along the way I'd made up my mind that I could never be academically successful, and that mindset stuck with me through most of my life.

I told a good friend of mine that I was considering enrolling in some classes.

"You should do it," he said.

"Yeah, but it's college. I'm not sure I can do it. Remember how I was in high school?"

And he said something that got my attention.

"Yeah, I remember. You had different priorities back then. Trust me. You're smart enough to do it. Now you have a reason."

My family became my reason. I balanced my classes with my duties as a father and a husband, and I earned my Bachelor's in Business before signing on here at the Chamber of Commerce. It's now my honor to serve the businesses of this community and build relationships that will bring opportunities not only to my family, but to the families who work and do business in Grant County as well.

Stephen R. Covey, bestselling author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People" believed that successful people always begin with the end in mind.

For me, the end wasn't graduating college, or landing a great job. It was fulfilling the promise that I made, and still make, every time I look into my children's eyes.

These Are Our Traditions

We observe holidays to celebrate and to remember the things most important to us as a society or culture. Some are religious, some nationalistic, and others appear to just be for fun. But one thing all holidays seem to have in common is a tendency for widespread irrational behavior. I'm not talking about the kind of behavior that involves alcohol, because if that were the case, then every Friday night could be considered a holiday for some people. I'm talking about the fundamental traditions that separate holidays from more prosaic, regular days.

Take Fourth of July, for example. For 364 days a year, parents, firemen, and other important people make it very clear to children that fire is dangerous and should not be used as a means of entertainment. Then, on the 4th of July, we throw that very good advice out the window and eagerly hand out not only matches, but cardboard tubes filled with gunpowder and tell the children to go have fun. And we do it in the middle of summer, perhaps because the dry weather adds to the allure.

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What Is in Front of You

There was once a man caught in a terrible flood. Clinging to a piece of wood, he prayed to God. "Lord," he said, "Please save me from this flood, and I will faithfully serve you." As he drifted through the raging floodwaters, the wood that held him above water could no longer hold him up, and so he abandoned the wood and began to swim.

"God will save me," the man said. The water was cold, and he was tired, but he swam on. He heard a voice cry out, "I've thrown a rope! Grab it and I will pull you to safety!" But the man said, "No, I am all right. God will save me." And he swam on, right past the rope.

Now the cold began to seep into his muscles, and every stroke became a labor. A woman on a kayak paddled near him and said, "Hold on to my kayak, and I will tow you to safety!" But the man refused. "No, I'm all right. God will save me." The woman begged him to grab hold, but eventually he drifted away from her, and she was lost in the driving rain.

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We Can Learn New Tricks

Every morning I open the door and let my dog Bleu out. He waits, tail wagging, for the chance to sample the smells and sights that await him in our yard. He patrols the fence line, learning everything he can about what happened while he was away. It's beautiful to see him run, his paws kick up bits of grass and dried leaves. He runs for the sheer joy of it. His joy becomes my joy as I watch him. I see him, and all dogs, as the embodiment of joy, something we as humans desperately need more of. Dogs can teach us about happiness, forgiveness and gratitude. There are some traits that dogs have that we probably should leave to them, like peeing on trees and rolling around in foul-smelling substances. But there are many that warrant emulation as well.

Dogs seek out the new and unfamiliar. Dogs love nothing more than to follow an interesting scent. What if we gave ourselves permission to explore and discover the way dogs do naturally? We might find new interests or discover a new way of looking at the world or even find a new approach to a business problem. Leaving ourselves open to new experiences, as dogs do, will certainly enrich our lives. Yes, there is the possibility that doing this will lead to a face full of porcupine quills or the occasional spray from a skunk, but there's no reward without accepting some risk.

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