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Massage Today
December, 2008, Vol. 08, Issue 12

Giving Back to Our Profession

By Cliff Korn, BS, LMT, NCTMB

It's been quite a while since I've taken the opportunity to speak with all of Massage Today's readers. I'm delighted to do so, and am most pleased to give my thoughts on something very important to me - the importance of all of us giving back to our wonderful profession.

Yes, I'm stressing all of us. Too often, we see only leaders in massage therapy donating their time and talents for the benefit of the rest of us. In many cases that is the prime mover in setting them apart as leaders from the rest of us; however, giving back should not be the sole domain of the few. If you asked those leaders about their gifts, they would likely tell you that by repaying the profession with their talents, they receive even more benefit.

This is not just my supposition; the same is true in all industries. Look at the many philanthropists of the high-tech industry, including Bill Hewlett and David Packard of Hewlett Packard. Among other things, their philanthropy has helped make California's fabled Silicon Valley what it is today. They all know how important it is for individuals to give something back to the community. I will paraphrase a real-estate appraiser who brought his profession into prominence in the 60s. He recently said, "From 1964 to 2000, I spent well over a third of my total time in serving the profession." He further states: "It was the greatest privilege I have ever had, outside of my family and closest friends. I have always considered involvement in the profession to be an obligation and a privilege, not just for me but for all who call themselves professionals."

I'd like to suggest that one of the very best ways that we as massage therapists can do our duty to our own society and massage community is to unequivocally support the Massage Therapy Foundation. The foundation is an independently governed philanthropic organization founded in 1990. Its work advances the knowledge and practice of massage therapy, and does not directly serve any specific interest group within the profession. Rather, the foundation is intended to serve the profession and the public as a whole. The organization serves us through research, education and community service.

Each year, the foundation awards grants for research. A priority is to fund studies in which massage therapists are actively involved in the research project design and execution and are considered an integral part of the research team. It promotes research not to prove that what we do is beneficial (common experience tells us that it is), but to understand more accurately the mechanisms and effects of what we do.

Nearly every foundation activity is directed toward building the knowledge base of the profession. A substantial knowledge base will help make us wiser and our work more well-informed. It will improve the efficacy of our work and in time increase access to massage, creating better economic opportunities for practitioners.

Each year, the foundation awards grants for community service projects that bring massage to people in need. Massage therapists develop partnerships with local nonprofit community service agencies to introduce massage to people who would otherwise have no access to it. Examples of populations served are battered women, migrant workers and homeless families.

Every foundation donor has to start somewhere; checking out is a great place to start. I believe that giving and sharing are key components (and responsibilities) of striving for professional success. There are a variety of reasons why giving is important, and the act itself benefits the giver in countless ways. Here are a few to consider:

  • If you are religious, regardless of whether you follow Christianity, Islam, Judaism or any other religion, you are called to give. Even if you are atheist or agnostic, the spiritual concept of giving is likely important to you.
  • Karma! Giving is a metaphysical act that literally makes you a magnet for whatever you give, be it money, love, time, peace or joy. This may sound like the New-Age mumbo jumbo with which so many tag massage therapists, but it is seriously true. The more you cling to wealth (just like fame or love), the more it will elude you and the less satisfied you'll be. So, if you want to be wealthy, spread the wealth.
  • People are remembered not for being rich, but for what they contributed to society while they were alive. Even Sam Walton, John Rockefeller, and other very rich moguls are remembered for how they changed the world, not for their millions or billions. Not all of us can dramatically impact society, but we can all give something back. When you die, no one (save perhaps your heirs) will know or care whether you died rich. But you can change someone's life by giving freely of your money and time.

"For massage therapists, giving back to the profession is important because you are getting in the habit of giving money annually and making it a part of your life," said Massage Therapy Foundation donor Doreen Rossi. "I'm excited to support an organization that adds such value to our chosen profession. The Massage Therapy Foundation invests so wisely in research and case reports. I'm always impressed with the depth and breadth of the information."

My own gifts to the Massage Therapy Foundation have been a source of great personal pride and satisfaction. I consider this organization to be the actual foundation of our profession. Its strength and continued growth will ensure a stable base for all that we do in the future. I am pleased to give the equivalent of a massage every month to invest in my abilities to continue earning a living with my hands and my heart. Not only do I get a nice tax deduction, but it also really feels good! I ask all of you to at least match what I do - a massage a month is little enough to do, requires almost no precious time, will be a big benefit to the foundation, and I guarantee will make you feel wonderful about yourself and your profession.

I think Winston Churchill said it best: "You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give."

Former editor of Massage Today, Cliff is owner of Windham Health Center Neuromuscular Therapy LLC. He is nationally certified in therapeutic massage & bodywork and is licensed as a massage therapist by the states of New Hampshire and Florida. Cliff is a member of the International Association of Healthcare Practitioners; a professional member and past president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association; a certified member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, Inc.; and a past chairman of the board of directors of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.


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