Friday, November 19, 2010

Thoughts from Dr. Gregg, Chiropractor.

The Flight Attendant leaned over me as I sat in my first-class seat, and asked whether I'd prefer the shrimp scampi with risotto or the rack of lamb with mashed potatoes for dinner. The question was disconcerting, and it wasn't because I didn't know what I'd rather eat.

It was because, 12 hours earlier, I'd been in Ethiopia, one of the most poverty-stricken countries in the world, completing my second mission trip to its capital city Addis Ababa. Somehow, the menu choices didn't seem all that important anymore.

I'm truly one of the lucky ones. I live in the United States, have a home and office in New York City, enjoy three meals a day, have access to health care and food and water, and get to fly anywhere I want at a 90% discount because my wife works for the airlines.

But even more than all that, what makes me one of the lucky ones is that I'm a chiropractor and have been able to help thousands of people throughout my career. More recently, I've learned to give, serve and love out of my own abundance, as Dr. Sid Williams always taught us to do.

I've been a practicing chiropractor for just under 20 years and it's only been recently that -- thanks to some fellow chiropractors and most importantly, my wife Trish -- I've learned to actually follow Dr. Sid's advice.

My first lesson came shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Living in New York City, I felt the impact of "9-11" personally and professionally. Doctors from the New York Chiropractic Council set up volunteer stations and I joined them in the Javits Center adjusting rescue workers staying there. It gave me a bit of inner peace to know I was doing something for the people who came from all over the country to help our city.

Later, other volunteer opportunities presented themselves. I worked at a soup kitchen in Chelsea run by one of our Council doctors. The two of us worked side-by-side with a third DC and adjusted patient after patient after patient. By the end of the day, we had seen about 200 people who might otherwise never have had a chance to receive chiropractic care.

You get a totally different feeling about giving chiropractic in that situation. People don't have a "fee-for-service" mentality; they're not complaining about their bill or their insurance company or the lack of instant results. In fact, they don't complain at all. They simply thank you as you encourage them to keep getting their spine checked and keep coming back.

About two years ago, at the request of another flight attendant, my wife, Trish, volunteered to go to Ethiopia and help keep a school there from closing. She brought two 50-pound duffel bags full of shoes, clothes, powdered milk -- and some much-needed funds.

This school is special because, unlike regular public schools in Ethiopia, is has a free meal program for all pre-kindergarten through third grade students. Families in this area are so poor they can't always afford food, so children often skip school to beg on the streets for food or money. This school gave them an education AND a meal -- it was worth saving.

Trish returned from that trip on fire to make a difference in the world. As happens so often in life, the timing was providential. The woman who organized the volunteer trip could no longer continue her efforts on behalf of this school and Trish stepped forward to take over.

Shortly afterwards, we made our first trip together to Ethiopia, recruiting six volunteers from the airline. We planned to bring as much food, money and clothing as we could carry. After talking with a few DCs who'd gone on mission trips to the Dominican Republic and Cuba, I decided I'd bring a table and offer free chiropractic care as well.

The day after we arrived in Addis Ababa, we traveled to the school, distributed all the clothing and assessed the situation. We decided to open my "clinic" the next day.

The people at the school didn't know what to make of us. I was a doctor, but had no white coat, stethoscope, instruments, or even pills! Just an odd-looking table. Even the director of the school was unsure about what I did.

They did understand the concept of back pain, though, for they have plenty of it in Ethiopia. People are forced to carry water, food and supplies great distances to their homes (when they have money to buy anything). Walking two miles to fill an old, yellowed five-gallon oil jug with water and then carrying it back with an infant tied to your back can definitely cause a subluxation. I had my work cut out for me, and I loved every minute of it. My only regret was that I wasn't able to get them to fully understand the true meaning of chiropractic and why it's for more than back pain.

I returned to Ethiopia this August and this time, I worked with a translator to write a simple message explaining chiropractic: "Dr. Rubinstein is here from United States. He performs treatments without medications to help the intelligence/power inside you keep your body strong, healthy and resistant to disease."

People lined up and watched curiously, laughing at my attempts to give instructions in the native language of Amharic, and the sounds and reactions of the other patients. A few were hesitant at first, but when word got out, all the mothers of the school's students started to line up, along with the workers hired to improve the school, our driver and even the security guard.

Finally, the entire student body and lined up and I adjusted them all over the course of about three hours. Seeing the smiles on those 82 children, I knew why I had traveled 24 hours to give, serve and love. It truly was one of my best days in practice

I'm not going to lie and say there were no sad moments during the trip. But even in those moments, chiropractic can lift the spirit.

I recall the day we walked two miles from the school through some of the poorest conditions I had ever seen to a student's one-room home. His mother's HIV was progressing to a more symptomatic stage and she was unable to get out of bed. We brought food as well as money for rent and cooking fuel, in hopes that she could soon feel well enough to eat and thereby qualify for HIV medicine. (In Ethiopia, the government distributes HIV medication only to those who can prove they are able to eat.)

Before leaving the home, I did the one other thing I knew I could do for her. I helped her sit up, checked her spine and adjusted her. When we left, she smiled, thanked us and whispered "God bless you." She looked as if she had regained at least some hope.

Before I departed Ethiopia, I spoke with the director of the school to see what more we could do. She told me that if we gave her a few months' notice she could put the word out and have thousands of people come for adjustments. She said the government would probably be willing to provide a space for us to work and local radio stations, churches and schools could publicize the visit.

I know many DCs want to get involved but aren't sure how or where they can make a difference. Ethiopia is one place, but so is the soup kitchen in your city. You might choose to spend several days in Addis Ababa or an hour at the local homeless shelter. Whatever you do, you'll feel -- as I do -- like one of the lucky ones. For there are few gifts greater than helping someone who will never be able to pay you back.

(Dr. Gregg Rubinstein attended New York Chiropractic College and completed post-graduate studies in orthopedics and treatment of the low back including a lecture/study certificate program in advanced clinical radiographic studies. He runs a thriving practice in midtown Manhattan. If you have questions or are interested in helping on his next mission trip, contact him through his website, or e-mail him at

Friday, September 10, 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Left Behind and From the Field

Well, I did not make it to Ethiopia and it truly saddens me. Due to the volcano in Iceland, flights were disrupted around the world and a group of 8 flying stand by without disruptions of ant sort is hard. The volunteers were able to make it out on 3 waves and our new VP and a veteran volunteer were part of the second wave.

Muday, being the wonderful person she is, left me no doubt that everyone would be taken of so I felt completely at ease sending everyone on ahead of me.I have complete confidence things are going well and this has been confirmed through my phone conversations and email.

While I know I am not the keystone of Friends of Fresh and Green, the organization and work we do is my passion and, I feel, my life's purpose. One of the great joys I receive from doing what I do is seeing how people react on their first visit to the school. Kathleen, our new VP has been so excited and full of energy for this trip and has had so many of the same expectations I had before my first trip. I was hoping to blog and send pictures just as she was, and she too has discovered that is next to impossible in our situation there.
One thing I can do to help on my end is post a blog for her. So the following blog is a portion of a heart warming email from Kathleen. I had bitter sweet feelings reading it for the first time. I has so many of the same feelings I had my first time and reading it made me miss everyone so much, and I am so very sad that I didn't get there this time. But I am happy beyond belief Kathleen and the rest have been so touched and Kathleen paints the picture that is "our Ethiopia" so well.


Hi Friends and Family!

Well, I've learned that "blogging" from Ethiopia is a bit of a pipe dream -- electricity is off unpredictably and all Internet is dial-up. So pics will have to wait until I get home and updates will have to come via email or Facebook.

I've been thinking all day how to describe the indescribable. Rainy season has started, and we are close to the Equator -- so ... when it rains, it really rains.

Today we visited an "average" family home, one like most of our students live in when they are not at the school. Eleven people sleep/live/eat in a room about 6' x 6' -- four tin corrugated walls and a tin corrugated roof -- no electricity or plumbing, rocky dirt floor, the 3 foot wide, rock-strewn path is both entry and sewer. The rain on the roof drowns out all noise and you have to shout just to talk to the person who is six inches away from you.

The school is truly an oasis, a haven for the students where they can get fed three decent meals a day, get an education and medical help when needed. We took one of the student's brothers to the hospital today, he'd been having stomach pains for five days. No money = just tough it out in Addis Ababa.

It really opened my eyes to just how vital it is to keep the school up and running and to keep the Mother's Cooperative going. It's the only thing that allows the siblings who aren't in our school to get fed.

I worked with the moms today, making some new jewelry projects -- eyeglass holders and watch bands. Now, having seen how they live, I think -- they don't even know what these things are, nor would they have any use for them if they did.

"Stuff" -- these people don't have nick-knacks, their children don't have toys, not everyone on the house even has a blanket to sleep under much less a mattress.

It's truly a different world, and experiencing it firsthand has changed me forever.

Muday, the woman who started and runs Fresh and Green Academy, is a beautiful, energetic, dynamic woman with an amazing vision: to lift these people up and ... I have to say, it is working.

I can't wait to share my pictures with all of you.

Lest you think my trip has been totally dismal, I have to let you know that it's been just the opposite. The people are amazing -- so generous, wanting to offer you tea and hospitality, sharing the little they have. The children are bright and funny, constantly hugging and giving kisses. AND ... my fellow volunteers are the icing on the cake: dedicated, lovely people who could spend their vacation going anywhere in the world, and they come here. And man, do they make me laugh!! We are constantly cracking up, sharing stories, laughing, it's really a blast. That may seem hard to believe but it's true!

OK, I've gone on for quite awhile now, and who knows when the electricity will go off, so I'll sign off for now. If all goes as planned, I will be back in the US on Sunday. But believe me, I plan to come back in August and I know I will miss this place in the meantime. It just gets into your soul.

Love and hugs,

Monday, April 19, 2010

On our Way!

We have been trying to get to Ethiopia since Friday, today is Monday, things beyond our control have postponed us. The volcano that erupted on Thursday prevented us from going through Europe on Friday so we came to Washington DC on Saturday and 3 of the volunteers got out. Two of our volunteers rushed to actually get out through Israel on Thursday. So there are 3 of us here at the airport hoping and praying to get on the flight this morning.

There was no flight on Sunday so we were able to enjoy a day in DC and took in a museum. I love my job as a flight attendant and all the perks that go along with it but there is a huge down side to all that free travel. Stand by can be brutal! I can handle it, but when I bring loved ones into the picture I feel responsible, though I know I am not, I can't help but take on the stress. That is my nature.

I am so grateful that most of the volunteers are already there and I can relax in knowing Muday is taking good care of them.

We are saying all the prayers we can, and hope to be with the children in about 20 hours!
Please send out the positive energy!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thoughts on the Next Trip to Ethiopia

For the past two weeks I have been working on a volunteer hand book to prepare the people who will be joining us this April. I really want to give them an idea of what is to come, but how do you tell someone to expect their life to be changed in a monumental way? It is something that has happened on every trip so far. People come back affected, and I love to see their eyes being opened to the warmth of people who have so little and appreciate so much.
My life has not been the same since my first visit to the school. I have a greater appreciation for what and who I have been blessed with and I have been shown how to truly love and care for my fellow human beings. I have learned to respect all beings and I know that one can never really imagine what it is like to walk in another's shoes. All common sense thoughts but easy to lose sight of.

I am looking forward to this trip not only because I miss the people I have grown to love in Ethiopia, but because I will have the opportunity to open the eyes and change the lives (hopefully for the better) of a great group of volunteers.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Just Some Thoughts

My heart yearns for the children of Fresh and Green Academy. Those faces can lift my spirits on the worst of days. Just seeing the smiles and knowing how they live and what little they have always puts my whole life into perspective, I am so blessed to be able to help them.

Can't wait to see them in April!