Sitting at home, facing the big list of re-opening considerations, I suddenly realized that I could walk away, take early retirement, and leave Sarana’s future to someone else. The thought is fleeting. I can’t abandon my co-workers and the Sarana Community. Despite my jogging, online classes, and a growing appreciation for my neighborhood, my life would be much diminished without Sarana. Here, adapted, is a post I wrote in April 2018 for the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture. It reminds me of why I need Community Acupuncture.
Ten years into working at and co-managing Sarana Community Acupuncture, I find myself surrounded by social dividends. Years ago, when I was a freelance architect, I could go days without conversing with anyone between 9am and 5pm unless I took a walk to the copy store or corner grocery. I don’t think I felt isolated, but in retrospect, I see my prior professional life as socially impoverished.
Now, as a community acupuncturist, I regularly interact face-to-face with dozens of people each week. In addition to my co-workers, I see a rotating array of 20-30 volunteers who work the front desk and do laundry, housekeeping, bookkeeping, and plant care. They tend to be stellar people: idealistic, competent, responsible, wanting to give of themselves to support their community clinic. Their backgrounds differ widely: black, white, American-born, immigrant, Asian, Latino, teachers, students, parents, retirees, an engineer, a real estate agent, a translator, artists, musicians, actors. They expand my world and make my life easier.
The biggest enlargement of my social sphere are my clients, the 50-60 people who each week, in five-or-less minutes per session, month after month, year by year, share their lives with me. Beyond the already-powerful experience of treating them and witnessing the progression of their lives, I’ve gained much. I’ve heard anecdotes — learned about Doug’s parrot who, wanting to hide, would respond to “Where’s Birdie?” with “Birdie’s not here!”. I’ve had a client connect me to a cellist with whom I’ve played chamber music. I’ve acquired catch-phrases that clients originated: “dinosaur points” for points near the lower brain; “that’s why we travel in herds” for the wisdom of group decision-making; “you can only treat one patient at a time” for a reminder to slow down and not get flustered. I’ve traded books with clients, reading suggestions, horrible puns, fruits and vegetables, plant cuttings, jams and honey, recipes, artwork, and many, many expressions of gratitude. I’ve come to know many people whose life experiences are vastly different from my own. I’ve come to respect how much I cannot know of the struggles people face.
Community Acupuncture is a social business that offers all of us –clients, punks, volunteers– an opportunity to practice being social without the burden of much conversation. It may be just a bunch of people sleeping in recliners, but it is also a place for us to be together, to acknowledge human suffering, and to value ourselves and each other for whatever we bring to maintaining a calm shared space. Community Acupuncture demonstrates the pleasure to be had in simple, caring, well-defined social interactions. In a world that can be seen as full of fear, uncertainty, stress, anxiety, and polarity, Community Acupuncture helps re-weave the social fabric.