Community Acupuncture is a Social Business

Hello Everybody, as you probably know, since punklings have been pestered everybody we can, we are knee deep the Membership Drive. We  are currently down about $1700 from what we raised last May, but we've raised $11,185 s far, so that is really nothing to sneeze at. Thank you everybody for your involvement, Hopefully we can get closer to the amounts raised last May.

In honor of the membership drive, Pam Chang of Sarana Community Acupuncture write a really lovely piece. Reading it made me really grateful for the tangible ways in which we do not have to do this alone, and thank goodness. I hope you enjoy it!


“Community Acupuncture is a Social Business”

When I first heard this phrase, it was explained to me that social businesses value building “social capital” –reputation and goodwill– more than they value accumulating money profits. Of course, we have to earn enough to pay the rent and salaries, and utilities and supplies, etc, but once the bills are paid, what matters most is growing roots into our community and providing a valued service.

Ten years into working at and co-managing Sarana Community Acupuncture, I find myself surrounded by social dividends.

Years ago, I don’t remember where, I heard that humans evolved to interact best in small communities, villages of several hundred people at most, where everyone pretty much knew everyone else, by reputation, if not more closely. By contrast, I live in an urban area among hundreds of thousands of people but I have interactions with very few. In my pre-acupuncture life when I worked at an architecture firm, I mostly interacted with my dozen-or-so co-workers, plus, at most, another couple dozen friends, relatives, and acquaintances who I might keep up with regularly on evenings and weekends. Later, as a self-employed freelancer, 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 my situation was unusual. I don’t think I felt isolated, but in retrospect, I see my prior professional life as socially impoverished.

Now, as a community acupuncturist three days per week, I regularly interact face-to-face with a couple hundred people each week. Although my circle of fellow-employees is less than a handful, I also see a rotating array of 20-30 volunteers who work the front desk and do laundry, housekeeping, bookkeeping, and plant care. Most of them are stellar people: idealistic, competent, responsible, wanting to give of themselves to support their community clinic. Their backgrounds are widely diverse: 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 after year, share their lives with me. Admittedly, not all of these acquaintances pan out. Some people disappear. Some become burdensome and I’ve had to learn how to limit the attention I give them. But I’ve gained much from my clients, above and beyond the already-powerful experience of treating them and witnessing the progression of their lives. 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 who lives near me — now we play Friday evening early-music regularly. 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 more heads being better than one; “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 people, many 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. It’s been said that our society is forgetting how to be civil. Letters to Dear Abby and Miss Manners gripe of people who text through dinner dates, who don’t say thanks, who engage in road rage and display varying degrees of rudeness, selfishness, and obliviousness to their fellow beings. Community Acupuncture 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.

Pamela O. Chang
Sarana Community Acupuncture,
April 2018


Author: teatree

lover of bikes, gardens, loaf shaped animals, kids, contra dancing, books, and weird smells. poking people and helping them feel better is amazing.

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  1. I just LOVE this so much! Thanks, Pam. You really express the intimacy we cultivate with people over the course of treatments. There’s just nothing like it and many boutiquers just don’t believe that in short time exchanges that much can happen. We see it every single day!