OK, comrades, I think I’ve written plenty about the hate mail that WCA has received. I’ve said less about all the sweet notes we get when people send us their business cards for the WCA map. There are lots of those, some short, some longer, and we appreciate them all. Over the weekend I opened the mail and found one that will forever wipe out all memory of every unkind thing anyone has ever said about us. Well OK, maybe I’ll remember, but I’m not going to care. One letter like this, and all the bad stuff just doesn’t count.
I’m copying it here because 1) it relates to some other things we’ve been talking about, like fractals, and 2) I had to either do something with it or crawl under a rock and die from embarrassment. The rock looked tempting for a while, but blogging won out.
Dearest Lisa and Skip,
I hope this letter finds you both happy & healthy! This letter has been on my daily must do list since I first read the “Acupuncture Is Like Noodles” book in January of 2011. I have put it off because I wanted it to be perfectly written but today I realized it was more important for you both to understand how grateful I am for all of the work you have done for our profession and our lives. I just got the keys to my clinic that will be opening in November. I am so aware that you both are responsible for that happening much more than I am. My hope and excitement are fruits of your ingenuity, guts, blood, sweat and tears. I want you to know that I appreciate you paving the way and I literally thank you every single day. You have made the world such a better place for so many people. You should be so very, unbelievably proud of yourselves. You have made me a better person, much more aware of who I am, what kind of person I want to be, and what I really appreciate in this life. The clinic name is Black Sheep Community Acupuncture. I hope you don’t mind that it is named after you.
“Whenever people march to their own tune or think outside the “flock,” they are often described as “black sheep.” We believe that this is a great quality to have! People who are able to try new things, experiment, and be unconventional are the driving force behind invention, art, and progress. The community acupuncture movement is a perfect example. Community acupuncture clinics are considered the “black sheep” of the acupuncture profession because we dare to bring prices down to a level that most people can actually afford. We have been scolded and put down because we supposedly “devalue the profession.” The founders of the community acupuncture movement, Lisa Rohleder and Skip Van Meter, dared to think outside the flock and come up with a way to treat their community with acupuncture by changing the typically expensive one-on-one style of treatments. They figured out a way to charge less and see more patients by using a group setting and implementing an affordable sliding scale of $15-$35 per treatment. Thanks to Lisa and Skip’s willingness to be black sheep, they have enhanced the quality of lives of hundreds and thousands of patients, who were able to feel better through affordable acupuncture. They also enhanced the lives of practitioners like me, who are happy and grateful to follow their lead to help heal our communities in a sustainable way. Their innovation has swept the country and inspired other black sheep to open up community acupuncture clinics, too. So our name celebrates the courage it takes to be different, try new things, and think outside the flock.” (https://blacksheepacupuncture.com/aboutus.cfm)
Thank you for teaching without preaching, being yourselves, working hard, cussing, having great senses of humor, caring about the greater good, fixing everything I hated about our profession, using common sense, creating a community that I am proud to be a part of, being creative, not afraid of confrontation, not giving up, sharing all your knowledge, creating a co-op, building a school, writing in a voice that is extremely intelligent yet very real and every sacrifice you have made of your time and life. You are appreciated. You are loved.
With Undying Gratitude,
So, the thing is, the last paragraph is how I feel about you, my comrades, and Valerie said it so perfectly I had to share it. Not all of you teach CA or write about it — though a whole bunch of you do and have, in the forums and here on the blog and at POCAfests and workshops — but the rest of that paragraph, that’s not just me and Skip, that’s US. That’s POCA: being yourselves, working hard, cussing, having great senses of humor, caring about the greater good, fixing everything I hated about our profession, using common sense, creating a community that I am proud to be a part of, being creative, not afraid of confrontation, not giving up, sharing all your knowledge, creating a co-op, building a school. (OK, not everybody cusses either, but Suzzanne makes up for everyone who doesn’t.) That’s the fractal in action.
Also, the first paragraph. The only part of this letter I would argue with is “I just got the keys to my clinic that will be opening in November. I am so aware that you both are responsible for that happening much more than I am.” No, dear heart, you got the keys and signed the lease and did all the hundreds — or thousands — of tiny things it takes to make a clinic actually happen. No matter what we did to encourage you, that part was all you. Every part of the fractal is there because it made itself.
The thing that blows me away about what’s happened here, to us, to all of us who feel that community acupuncture has made us better people (and a lot of us feel that way) is that there wouldn’t be a movement at all unless an improbably large number of us took the leap and made it real through personal risk. Whether it’s the risk of starting a small business or working in one, we didn’t just *think* outside the flock. We didn’t just think about community acupuncture, we put our livelihood on the line to make it real. That’s amazing. Truly, what are the odds?
There are an awful lot of you out there, volunteers and employees and owners, welcoming patients and answering phones and putting needles in and taking them out and cleaning the clinic up afterwards. All those daily tasks make up our movement. Skip and I could’ve taught a bunch of workshops and even written a book or two, but if you all hadn’t followed it up with all of those daily actions in all of your communities, it just would’ve been another quirky little acupuncture thing, a couple of individual acupuncturists doing what acupuncturists do best, hyper-individuating and then talking about it. But instead, there are an awful lot of you who have thought — and acted — like a collective from day one. And because there’s a collective now, it makes it easier and easier for new punks and new clinics to take the risk of making community acupuncture real.
So this lovely love letter is for POCA. Thank you, Valerie. Thank you, POCA. You have made the world such a better place for so many people. You should be so very, unbelievably proud of yourselves. You are appreciated. You are loved. Remember that.