Community Chi coming out of the office

Once in a while the Community ‘Chi’ of the treatment rooms that
is often referred to on CAN shows up in the office space. I want to tell you
about what it looks like in the office, for an office staff person.

Okay, it was an ordinary day at the front desk which is in
the side office of the Community Acupuncture on Cape Cod
space. The colorful open flag is waving outside the window, the CD player is on
playing an ‘Ollabelle’ CD, the files are pulled and ready for the folks to come
in and get them as they check in, the messages have been received off the phone
machine, folks have been called back, plants have been watered, dehumidifier
has been emptied, needle packets have been opened, the heat is on, and I am
sitting down, waiting for the next thing to call me to attend to it.

In come a woman, man and baby. As they are entering the
office space, there is some noticeable tension in the air and they are speaking
Portuguese to each other. They glance at me from time to time; a womyn, white
and English speaking. The man asks “Where is Antonio”? (Antonio DaSilva is an
acupuncturist who worked here last fall, winter and spring. He was originally
from Brazil and
spoke and few languages fluently. He established a connection with the
Brazilian community on Cape Cod and we began to have a
few patients who spoke Portuguese. When he left a few stayed on but for those
who spoke less English, they left too.)Diana
Digioia, Acupuncturist and clinic owner (also white and English speaking) walks
in and introduces herself at that point, explaining that unfortunately Antonio
is no longer at the clinic because he was commuting from Boston and it was too
far. She went on to say she’d be happy to treat the woman and not much English
is necessary. So the woman goes in a little reluctantly and the man is left
standing in the office with baby in a basket in hand. Usually, I ask people to
wait out in the waiting hall; however there is not much space out there and the
baby was beautiful, so I invited him to take a seat right in there in the
office next to the window, the plant, the CD player, the front desk and me.

I wished at that moment I had a way to make a cup of tea for
the man. I put the ‘working class acupuncture for patients’ book in the man’s
hand instead and knelt down to greet this beautiful baby. He simply stared at
me sweetly, regardless of all the smiles I sent his way.

I found my old Portuguese/English language notes that
Antonio helped me with before he left and interrupted the man, “Would you mind
helping me practice my Portuguese?” He was delighted to teach, correct and
chuckle at my attempts for the next hour or so.

Meanwhile, another regular patient enters to check in. She
jumped right into the language lesson, turns out she teaches Spanish at the
High School but is fairly fluent in Portuguese also. She, too, bends down to
greet the beautiful baby and then leaves us to go in the treatment room.
Another patient arrives, greets us all, bends down to kiss the baby and goes

Suddenly I hear the main door open and a young girl heads
straight for the treatment room and knocks. I rush out to catch her before she
disturbs anyone; she wants to give car keys to her mom. We do that and she goes
to head out again in the pouring rain. I ask if she’d like to come into the
little side office and wait. She hesitates. Just then the baby in the office
gurgles and she spins around in that direction and says, “Is that a baby?”, before
I even get to answer the question, the girl moves quickly by me, enters office
and bends down to make a new friend. She holds the baby’s head in her hands,
laughs and plays and speaks perfect baby talk with the 10 month old. This baby,
the quiet Buddha like baby, lights up in her presence. Turns out she has a
little brother about this age. She jumped into the language lesson also (her
mom is the Spanish teacher) and then just sat and read quietly, playing with
the baby from time to time.

And so the time went, patients coming in receiving the gifts
of baby energy, adding to the intergenerational community chi that was brewing
in the office, and then going on into the treatment room for their acupuncture.
It was about the best hour I’d spent in the office in my year and a bit here. Community
building was happening!

Now I am more prepared, the tea pot is on the table, teabags
are stocked, local honey is available. I brought in some mugs form home and I
can make tea for the guests. Since that day the woman is comfortable coming in
alone and as it turns out she speaks English fairly well. She also allows me to
practice my Portuguese with her each time she checks in. Last time she was in I
mentioned wanting to do a language exchange; a small group who would meet to
share languages. Portuguese, English, Spanish, they are all present on Cape
Cod. She was very excited; I ran the idea by Diana who gave me the
green light to do it here if I wanted to. I’ll let ya know how it goes.

What can the ‘Community’ part of Community Acupuncture mean?
Who is our Community? How do we build Community? These questions fuel my work
here in the office. These questions puzzle me too and tick me off at times
because they are way more challenging than I imagined possible. Many times I
run around in circles looking for answers only receiving wisps and hints and
threads to weave with. Other times I must let the questions go and just focus
on what is right before me- the hundreds of tiny details of the office work because
I need to do something tangible- something I can check off a list and feel that
sense of accomplishment. But the questions are always there beckoning like
background music regardless, there is so much I don’t know.

What I do know is that we each bring a piece to this puzzle.
What I ask of each of you is that if you have any office staff working with
you- please get them hooked up to CAN, I want to hear their voices. CAN is
where I get all of my training, CAN is where I find many questions, answers,
and ideas and where I get the sense that I am part of something bigger than
just this front desk in this side office here at CACC. If you don’t have
someone working with you yet, I encourage you to keep dreaming them in because
it is so much fun to work together and to collaborate around building healthy,
powerful community!

Thank you for the space to share,

deer Sullivan

Office Manager, Volunteer Coordinator, Community Outreach

@ Community Acupuncture on Cape Cod

Author: deer

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  1. I love that “baby energy”

    I love that “baby energy”  I have a 4 1/2 month old great nephew and sometimes it feels like one smile from him is more healing than anything in the world.  

    I used to work in a clinic where most people Spoke Spanish and struggled with English. Many lived in Mexico.  They loved to teach me new words and tell me about their lives in Mexico, it was so much fun to be at the clinic and I felt like I was invited into their culture a little bit.  The patients with good English skills would help translate for those who didn’t.  It truly felt like a special little community where everyone was involved i the healing. 

    Deer, you are clearly part of the healing at your clinic.  When I get to the point of having my own clinic and hiring office staff I will be looking for someone like you. Do you happen to have a sister/brother who lives in metro Detroit and will be looking for a job in a year or so? Laughing

    I hope I make it to Cape Cod someday, i would love to meet you and Diana.  I can almost feel the great qi from your clinic flying through my wireless connection.

  2. It’s great

    to hear this story, deer.  It’s such a good story about breaking down isolation.  I’m also glad you are blogging.  I look forward to more of your viewpoint. 🙂

  3. I was thinking about how

    I was thinking about how much I enjoyed working with the patients at that clinic, I realized I instinctively knew that the professional distance that was so important to the other docs at the clinic took the joy out of really working with patients human to human.  I don’t have a problem with the doc/patient relationship or feel like I have to downplay my knowledge of medicine.  When you show people true respect you acknowledge their inherent power as fellow humans, no one gets hurt or feels “less than”. If you treat people like they need protection you strip them of their power and IMO that’s much worse.

    Hmm… I went a little off subject there, I guess I have a new idea to explore.