Healers, Money, and Community

When I was young, there was, in the communities I knew, an acknowledgment that most healers were poor. That was simply the price one paid for working for the Creator.

When my family moved from a small farming community to the city, the rules changed. At first, the assumption was that healers would be poor. The small church we attended attracted working class immigrants from the country, and reflected their relative poverty. But as time passed, and the congregation grew in wealth, the expectation that pastors and healers be poor was replaced  by an ideology that favored wealth as a sign of the Creator’s favor. The physicians we knew also grew wealthy, and enlarged and corporatized their practices in order to grow more wealthy.

Of course, the belief that wealth is a reflection of godliness is fraught with complications. (So is the equation of godliness and poverty.) The greatest of these is that, in my experience, the more wealthy ministers and healers became, the less they saw themselves as servants of the community. Of course, they were not alone; their shifting attentions and fortunes reflected changing beliefs and expectations in  the culture at large.

First Nations and rural cultures alike struggle with the poles of wealth and poverty as they reflect the competency and holiness of healers. Some communities prefer wealth in their healers, others prefer poverty. A few expect healers to fall somewhere in between the poles. Expectations also differ as to whether, and how much, healers may charge for their services.

The overarching domination of market economies in most traditional and mainstream communities has muddied the discussion even more. Healers must provide for themselves and their families, and few have access to subsistence or cooperative activities that provide enough cash flow to assure housing, food and medical care. Nor do they have time to practice as healers effectively after working their day-to-day job, should they be fortunate enough to have one.

At the same time, there is an expectation in many communities that healers will make their services available for free, or at least at a fee individuals and families can readily afford, even when this is less than the amount needed by the healer. Communities may also show displeasure when healers advertise their services. The introduction of healing practices governed by the rules and machinations of insurance companies has only compounded these issues.

Much has changed over the sixty odd years of my life. Many of the changes have helped people. Others have caused, or will cause, great suffering among many beings. The world is as it is, and we are each charged to do what we are able. We can, working together as communities, shape the norms healers work by. It is a group task.

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6 thoughts on “Healers, Money, and Community

    • Thanks for stopping in. I see from your blog that you are newly writing about your philosophy and experience as a healer. I’m curious about how you are finding blogging, and about your life journey thus far.

  1. A group effort indeed. And a struggle I’ve been through and witnessed many times. Luckily, at this time, I can swing a day job and schedule appointments on evenings and weekends. But my practice is young, and if Spirit wills it, that will most likely change.

    There is also the belief that the responsibility of compensation lies with the patient, and their that exchange reflects not only their ability to compensate, but the value they place upon the time and effort the healer has devoted to learning their art. Still, to paraphrase Bear Heart in “The Wind is My Mother”, whether or not the patient can aford to pay, we do our best regardless.

    All things work out in the end.

    • I think the issues are important to think about, and discuss. People do make decisions as to how to spend their incomes. Yet some have very small incomes through no fault of their own. Maybe the underlying question is how to have dignity and support for all.

  2. Thanks for bringing this up. Charging for their work has always posed a significant conundrum for most healers. It is a ‘value’ issue for self and others but one the healers must lead the way in healing. And while self worth can not be remedied with money as some people like to think, being able to take care of your financial needs and requirements may well add to your self worth/esteem.

    If the healer has a hard time deciding what to charge or even if to charge he must learn how. Start with something you feel is reasonable and work at that rate. When community responds with praise and satisfaction they will give you verbal clues as to what your next step in an acceptable rate would be. Raise it as you are comfortable in doing. But I truly believe that money can never replace the emotional value that is found in living your purpose – only service to others does – no one should ever be turned away from the right to find wellness.

    • Thanks, Andrea,
      My practice is to see anyone who needs aid, regardless of ability to pay. There are limits to my ability to do that and meet my other obligations, so rarely, I find myself facing difficult choices. In a market economy there is little community support for most healers, so we find ourselves making challenging ethical decisions. Perhaps we, as local communities, will begin to speak together about these matters, both within the medical and the alternative modes.

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