Happy Birthday to Sarana — gratitudes, 2021

Sarana becomes a teenager this month.

image by Bellava G via Unsplash

In 2008, I was a newly-minted acupuncturist. I had no interest in becoming a business owner, but I had heard about Community Acupuncture. This was how I wanted to practice. Yet I knew of nowhere to do so unless I created a community acupuncture job for myself. Luckily, I was not alone. Tatyana Ryevzina also wanted to create a community clinic and we had the resources that Working Class Acupuncture in Portland, OR, had pioneered, tweaked, and made freely available to like-minded acupuncturists.

Thirteen years later, we have given some (estimated) 100,000 acupuncture treatments. Just before COVID Shelter-in-Place began last year, we, as an incorporated nonprofit, employed 13 people part time and had close to 30 volunteers helping with laundry, housekeeping, reception, and plant-watering. Now, we’re down to three employees and a dozen volunteers. Nevertheless, Sarana continues to enliven my life. Here’s a shout-out to what I am grateful for.

First, thank you, Sarana clients who have kept in touch throughout this year of pandemic, political mayhem, climate disasters, and vast uncertainty. Thank you to those who bought pre-paid treatments while we were closed. Thank you to those who made donations. Thank you to the people who returned in-person when we reopened. And, not the least, thank you to people who let us know that they were thinking of us and wishing us well. You are the community that makes me feel that creating Sarana was worthwhile.

In this year of upheaval, I would also like to acknowledge the Sarana clients who have passed on. Over the years, there have been many, many whose names I no longer recall, but who touched my soul. Lottie who snored louder than anyone else. X who suicided after years of unremitting pelvic pain. Clayton, a delightful reception volunteer who favored the corner recliner and the purple blanket and who reminded me to breathe. Y, Z, W, and a host of others who succumbed to end-stage cancer with grace and patience. Tad, a sweet soul and musician. Margo, the artist who drew the image on our business postcards. Ana, a longtime housekeeping volunteer. Thank you for the trust you gave in allowing me to treat you.

Thank you, Sarana volunteers. You take care of the messy bits of running the clinic — laundry, cleaning, pre-COVID reception. You take it upon yourselves to tighten the screws on the loose toilet seat, deal with the floors that get sticky from disinfectant overspray, fold all those hand towels week after week.Thank you. Without you, I would not have lasted at Sarana for 13 years.

Thank you to my co-workers. While herding you is not my idea of fun, I’m grateful that you mostly herd yourselves. Twenty five years ago, I promised myself to spend my working life working only with people I like. With your help, I’ve managed to keep that promise.

Thank you to my community acupuncture colleagues who generously pool ideas about topics ranging from ‘how big a space do you need for a community acupuncture clinic?’, to ‘what’s the best way to install wipeable covers for recliners?’. Thank you for your collective expertise.

Thank you to our landlords and the City of Albany’s eviction moratorium during COVID. We would no longer be in business without their leniency.

And finally, another shout out to Sarana’s clients. You’ve shared pieces of yourselves — your ailments, your remedies, your experiences — that broaden my outlook on life. You’ve shared book recommendations, websites, garden produce, recipes, and jokes. In the process, you’ve provided me with a rewarding career that feels like right-livelihood. I feel blessed. Thank you.

~Pam Chang, March 2021

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