By Stew Bittman, D.C.
Back home from a mission in the Dominican Republic, and so far I haven’t had a tremendous amount of time to reflect, as we’ve launched directly back into our “normal” routine (that and the fact that I’ve been dealing with an array of really interesting gastrointestinal phenomena – it feels as if there are a couple of new flexures in my colon!). Yesterday was one of those first-day-back-after-a-mission kind of days, with everyone asking how the trip was, and me barely overcoming the desire to respond, “no comprendo.” What was interesting was the number of questions I received about the value of one adjustment. I don’t recall getting that question after any of the other missions. I realized that was the theme of this particular experience for me: does one adjustment really make a difference? Well, over the past 10 years of speaking and writing, I’ve been endlessly declaring that it does, perhaps mostly to myself. I’ve worked long and hard to get to the place where I could deliver one adjustment, without attachments to outcome or personality or symptoms or reward or whatever, and feel absolutely fulfilled simply thru the giving away of my gift. This Dominican mission was a tremendous test of how securely I really stand in that place.
The mission was different and quite hard for me, for a number of reasons. First of all, I adjusted in the same school every day. Nine hundred kids, ranging from kindergarten thru high school. I usually prefer to be out in the community, adjusting families, hearing about the miracles, interacting somewhat with the people, and being blown away by the sheer numbers of folks who flock in. “No problema”, I told myself in my best Spanish, “I’m being asked to serve, and this is where I’m supposed to be.” And it was fun for about the first day and a half: having the students all stand and say, “buenos dias”, adjusting them right at their desks, watching the power come on in their eyes, etc. But I lay awake in bed after the second day, wishing I didn’t have to go back, concocting ways to trade sites with someone, pleading with God to use me more, or at least differently. I felt perfectly justified in this whining, too. It was pandemonium in the classrooms, especially with the older kids, with noise levels approaching that of your typical airport runway. My back was begging me, in its usual subtle way, to stop leaning over all those foot and a half-high desks. I was sick of the [relatively few] kids that were fooling around, hiding under their desks, trying to impress the girls, and generally being kids. The other groups were reporting experiences closer to what I thot I should be having. God didn’t answer, or so I thot, and off we went the next morning back to the school. My upper lip remained stiff, and I summoned up my mantra of, “every adjustment changes lives.”
Something shifted that day. Some of the kids didn’t need to be adjusted. Many of them were clearly more relaxed. It was noticeably quieter in most of the rooms (I only had a headache afterwards for 2 hours instead of 4!). I started to get thot flashes, after a particularly beautiful adjustment, about that student perhaps making a different choice, perhaps taking a different path as a result of our encounter. And when we got done at the school, we were unexpectedly whisked off to the barrio to adjust in a new site. To an area of indescribable poverty, degradation, and filth. It looked like an explosion at the city dump. Tiny cardboard shacks, dirt and rock floors, barefoot kids picking thru the rubble, people openly carrying weapons of all shapes and sizes. Unbelievable. Please don’t send a video of this to my mom, I remember thinking. We set up in front of some kind of clinic and people came, seemingly right out of the rubble. We began to adjust and my mantra came back to me. Judging from these conditions, is it even conceivable that something could change for these people? Perhaps not conceivable, but certainly possible, came my answer. I remembered Jim Parker always saying that chiropractic was about possibilities, not probabilities. I remembered the story about the guy, when asked why he was throwing a few of the thousands of starfish that were littering the beach back into the sea, saying, “it makes a difference to this one.” I realized that this one person is oh so easy to lose sight of while observing the landscape, and I wasn’t going to do that. I realized that this was someone’s mother or grandmother or sister or whatever. I realized that this person’s life and health makes a tremendous difference to him or her. And I realized, more than I ever had to that point, that one adjustment truly does change lives. I remember feeling very grateful for that knowing, and thinking that if I didn’t really believe that, I would give up chiropractic.
At one point I stopped adjusting because I became aware that a few pieces of the last guy’s face had come off in my hand. I went in to wash my hands and kept adjusting. The guy came back a while later, took both of my hands in his and thanked me for helping him. He thrust out his forearms for my inspection, looking immensely happy and proud, albeit somewhat grotesque. They looked terrible to me, but I assume he was showing me how much better they were. He said he was healed. Did he have leprosy? I don’t know. All I know is that he most assuredly was not a maximum expression of Innate, and that now he was a little closer.
The next 2 days I was back to the school (which, by the way, was attended by Sammy Sosa, but I think they’ve now named it after me). It was still hard, but incredibly wonderful. By the last day, you could hear a pin drop in a lot of the rooms. It was almost sacred. Many of the kids were clear. I adjusted each one with maximum presence and all the love I could muster. It may be the last time they ever get adjusted, I told myself, so let’s give it that little something extra. Me. When it was over, my lesson was complete, and now there is not a shred of doubt remaining about the value of one adjustment. I hope you all remember that and own the truth of it. No one can ever take it away from me, and I don’t believe I will ever again be tempted to take it away from myself. Thank you God!
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