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Return to Thoughts on Healing and Helping


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Summarized from: My Grandfather's Blessing

by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.


Befriending the life in others is sometimes a complex matter. There are times when we offer our strength & protection; but these are usually only temporary measures. The greatest blessing we can offer to others may be our belief in their struggle for freedom; to have the courage & the strength to accompany them as they determine for themselves the strength that will become their refuge & foundation of their lives. It is especially important to believe in someone at a time they cannot yet believe in themselves. Then your belief will become their lifeline.


Restoring the World Through Service:


The countless sparks of holiness are hidden deeply in everyone & everything based on a foundation of valuing service. The purpose of life is to uncover these sparks of holiness in others & restore the world to its original wholeness. It is up to us to help free the hidden holiness in everything & everyone through our loving kindness & compassion. Everyone participates. It’s a collective task. Every act of loving kindness, no matter how great or small repairs the world. All those ever born have shared this collective work since the beginning of time. We repair & restore the world. Everything in life prepares us with this opportunity. It invests all our struggle with a deeper meaning & deepens all our joy.


It often seems that the problems of the world are large & overwhelming & there are limits to what we can accomplish as a single person or even as a single group. It can be profoundly disheartening. We each make a difference & we can heal the world.


Service is the work of the soul, a return to what is most real & genuine in each of us. In our lifetime, this return to our goodness happens not once, but many times. Some are small. Some are large. All are important. Perhaps our greatest service is simply to find ways to strengthen & get closer to our goodness. This requires daily attention to what distracts us, diminishes & makes us forget who we really are. But every act of service bears witness to the possibility of freedom for us all. And, anytime anyone becomes more transparent to the light in them, it will restore this light in the world.


Basically, service is about taking life personally; letting the lives that touch yours touch you. Needing others has come to require an act of courage. Is it surprising that so many people are secretly lonely and afraid to grow old. Service is the way that this world can heal.



It is far more genuine than that. It is a relationship between people who bring the full resources of their combined humanity to the table and share them generously. Service goes beyond expertise. Service is another way of life.


Service is not “help.” It is hard not to see someone you “help” as weaker & more needy than yourself. But we do not serve with our strength. We serve with our selves. We draw from all our experiences (even parts that embarrass us or make us ashamed). The wholeness in me serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is as worthy as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals. Many times my limitations have become the source of my compassion as I serve. My wounds make me gentle with the wounds of other people & able to trust the mysterious process by which we heal. Everyone involved is benefited to have had a chance to participate.



Seeing yourself as a “fixer” may cause you to see brokenness everywhere; to sit in judgment on life itself. If we “fix” others, we may not see their wholeness or trust the life integrity in them. “Fixers” trust their own expertise. When we “serve”, we see the unborn wholeness in others. We collaborate with it & strengthen it. Others may then be able to see their own wholeness for themselves for the first time. To “fix” others is to diminish & deny the life power within them.


Only service heals. All who serve, serve life. Service is not “fixing” life, manipulating/controlling life or struggling to gain mastery over life. Service is closer to generosity than it is to duty. Over the long run, “fixing” & “helping” are draining but “serving” is renewing. The best definition of service is belonging. Service is the final healing of isolation & loneliness. It is the lived experience of belonging.


--My good friend Marcia listened to a tape of this article and summarized these insights for me.


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