I had just returned from the Massage Therapy Research Foundation conference in Boston; a marvelous event with many excellent presentations about current massage therapy research. One moment during a talk by my friend Dr. Jeanette Ezzo was particularly poignant.

Dr. Ezzo was doing some research that involved giving subjects who had received a series of massage therapy sessions an exit survey. I don’t actually remember what the point of the survey was, but one subject, after taking the survey, turned to Dr. Ezzo and said, “But you didn’t ask me about what the massage means to me.” She went on to describe how the powerful role her massage therapy sessions had in her life.  I’d like to tell you what she said, but my mind drifted immediately to about 1982, when I first opened BodyWork Associates in Champaign.

One of my regular clients (and I had precious few back then) was a wonderful older woman who came to see me at the same time every week. She had no particular musculoskeletal issue; she just came for relaxation and renewal. We never spoke very much, and never about personal things. I knew few details about her life; but her presence radiated wisdom and caring.

After her death some years later, one of her friends remarked to me how important her massages with me were. When my response was a bit dismissive, this person filled me in on the rest of the story. My client’s husband suffered from what we now know to be Alzheimer’s.  My client spent 24/7 taking care of her husband, except for the one hour she spent at my office. That is why she so valued the time on my treatment table. As Alzheimer’s was little understood in those days, she told hardly anyone, which meant she also had essentially no help. What was sacrosanct to her was getting someone to watch her husband to she could come to her massage therapy sessions.

There is an adage that the meaning of a communication is the response received. One never knows how powerful what we say or do can be to another. A warm smile to a stranger, a kind word to a server or a patron; what seems inconsequential to the giver may be quite powerful to the recipient.  I will always be thankful that I was able to provide a weekly respite in her very difficult task. And, despite all her struggles, she always found time to encourage me to continue offering massage therapy to Champaign-Urbana, even when the phone hardly ever rang. The impact of those kind words gave me strength and certainly played a role in having BodyWork Associates here many years later. I doubt she knew how powerful her words of encouragement were for me or how many people her kindness would ultimately affect.