I am currently reading HOW CAN I HELP? (Stories and Reflections on Service) by Ram Dass & Paul Gorman.  I am 56 pages into it, and because it is sooo deep, it is going to be a bit slower read for me.  I find myself underlining, taking notes, and folding over almost every page.  How can I do my type of review on something like that.  It would be pages long to read.  So instead of doing just ONE review of this book, I think I will write something up daily on what I am learning from this book.  It might be easier for you to read, and it will definitely be easier for me to type.  🙂

I bought this book because I overheard a conversation by the 2 women who work in my church’s bookstore.  One woman was telling the other that this particular book was great for people who spend much of their time in service and who might feel burnt out at times.  That instantly sent bells off inside my head.  I volunteer for 3 different organizations.  My passion and mission in life is that of service, and to be totally honest with you, sometimes I get burnt out.  So, of course, I bought the book!

Do you participate in community service?  If so, why?  This is a question that was talked a bit about in SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME and WHAT DIFFERENCE DO IT MAKE.  People have all kinds of reasons for participating in community service or even just helping out a neighbor.  The other day, I went to pick up my daughter from her friend’s house. It was 7pm and it was time for her to be home.  When the other mom let me in, she said, “Naomi was such a great help.  She helped Cameron with his reading homework.  It gave me a break. I really appreciated that.”  I thought it was pretty cool that Naomi would help her friend (who is 2 grades behind her).  I thought, “you learn more when you teach” so this is great for her.  I was also pleased that she WANTED to help her friend (kind of like taking care of a younger brother).  The mom also told me that he had to have his homework done before he could play, and that is when Naomi offered to help him.  So I know at some level, her helping Cameron was self-serving.

Motives.

Do you help to make yourself feel good?  Even if that isn’t what set you in motion, it’s an undeniable feeling afterwards, isn’t it?  Denver Moore said that he felt like people came to work at the homeless shelter food lines on the holidays out of guilt for what they had and the others didn’t…because it made them feel good about being blessed.  I know in some of my organizations, women get involved because they want to make new friends within the organization.  Neither of these things is wrong.  But in HOW CAN I HELP? it talks about being separate from your Ego (which is what gives you the motives) and realizing that we are all ONE…”US”.  Once we recognize that and FEEL that UNITY of being “US”, being of service is a natural thing that comes without motives or that “feel good” feeling.  It is just what you do as a natural extension of being alive.  The word “symbiotic” comes to mind: “any interdependent or mutually beneficial relationship between two persons, groups, etc.” (definition from dictionary.com)  When we help ONE, we help ALL.  And this desire to help is born of a natural compassion (which is what the first chapter of this book is on).

On Natural Compassion:

I think most of us are born with a Natural Compassion.  We see someone hurting, and we want to help them.  Yet sometimes, we stop and we ask ourselves if we can handle that or if we have what it takes to help them.  I know that when I was asked to lead a women’s retreat for women who are HIV/AIDS positive, I asked these questions.  I do not have HIV/AIDS; I don’t fight that battle every day.  How am I ever going to know what these women need?  How am I ever going to be able to provide them with a retreat that meets their needs?  Here is what the book says about that:

“We may have a difficult time facing the suffering of others because we don’t know how to deal with our own pain and suffering.”

“And when we wonder what we have to offer anyone under any circumstances, aren’t we really questioning our self-worth?”

“The more wrenching the situation, the more likely such issues will be central.  Who are we to ourselves and to one another? — it will all come down to that.”

“Can we see that to b e of most service to others we must face our own doubts, needs and resistances?”

“The reward, the real grace, of conscious service, then, is the opportunity not only to help relieve suffering but to grow in wisdom, experience greater unity, and have a good time while doing it.”

I can tell you that in planning for the women’s retreat, I took volunteer classes at Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS, the organization that was hosting the event.  One of the classes I took was named “compassion”.  It was my first very real conversation with people who were both HIV/AIDS positive and who were not.  And my fear was erased, well at least some of it.  During the registration period of the retreat, while the women were arriving, I was very nervous. I still doubted myself.  What did I have to offer these women?  I knew I had planned an amazing weekend for them, but would they accept me as a non HIV/AIDS person?  Would I be an outsider? Would they allow me to serve them?  All of these were *my own* fears.  Once they arrived, it was quickly clear, that my fears were my own.  It was an amazing weekend of service…..why?  Because I let go of my fears and realized that I had everything I needed in order to be of service to them…I had my compassion and my love.

Tomorrow we will go a bit further into how I was able to help them during the retreat…how I let go of that fear (as described in this book).

For now, thank you for taking this journey with me.  I do truly appreciate all of my readers!

Much Love,

Martha

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