When I told a friend about the foot pain I’d been having, she recommended that I make a reflexology appointment with a woman named Sue Lin. I decided to try it, even though I knew very little about reflexology.
First I had to find the Oriental foot spa, which was located in a newish strip mall in a small rural working class town. As I parked my car, I gave myself a high-five that I found the place. Then I tried to picture the inside.
The front door was nondescript, with a large glass windowpane covered in soft, creamy fabric. When I walked through the entrance, I didn’t expect to see who I saw: there was a heavy-set Amish woman wearing a bonnet and matching dress who was on her way out.
She didn’t acknowledge me, but I was hoping that my mouth wasn’t hanging open in surprise. Even though I was in an Amish community, I didn’t know that the Amish got massages. I realized that I didn’t know enough about their culture to make any assumptions at all.
Then I saw a young Asian woman behind the front desk. “Are you Melissa?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied, smiling. It was nice to be welcomed by name.
“I’m Sue Lin. Come this way.”
“Bye, see you next time,” she said to the Amish woman.
I followed Sue Lin to a dark, quiet small room with relaxing Asian music playing. While she worked on my feet the phone rang at the front desk and she excused herself. When she came back she said that she just had another referral an Amish client. “They tell their friends about me,” she said proudly.
“They’re in bad shape,” she said to me in broken English. “They work hard.”
“Chinese people, try to take care of their health before they get ill. Americans take care of themselves after they get ill.”
I nodded and pondered her words. What she said is true and sad.
She pressed on my right big toe and it was painful. “This is your brain,” she said. “You think too much.”
“That’s probably true,” I replied. I was glad to hear that my brain was very active.
I tried to picture my brain in my big toe, though what she probably meant was that the nerves from my brain get sent to my big toe. Chinese medicine is fascinating, I thought.
Sue Lin wrapped my feet in hot towels. I was so relaxed after this magical hour listening to the music of the chimes and having my feet returned to me after a summer of foot pain that I felt like I was standing on cotton candy.
“If anyone ever gives you reflexology,” Sue Lin said, “and they start to work on your right foot, then they don’t know what they’re doing. They must start with your left foot because of your heart…”
I didn’t totally understand what Sue Lin was saying, because I don’t understand Chinese medicine, but I believed her. I knew that she was speaking the truth and I should pay attention.
What I received from Sue Lin was more than an hour of reflexology. It was an hour of relaxing combined with education about Chinese medicine and culture, taught through the viewpoint of a young Chinese woman from Beijing. It was an hour about a world I hadn’t been privy to before. Now that I was, I realized that I wanted the door to stay open till I learned more—not only about Chinese medicine, but about the Amish too.