“In recent years the question HOW CAN I HELP? has become meaningful to many people.
But perhaps there is a deeper question we might consider. Perhaps the real question is not how
can I help? but HOW CAN I SERVE?
Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on inequality: it is not a relationship
between equals. When you help you use your own strength to help those of lesser strength. If
I’m attentive to what’s going on inside of me when I’m helping, I find that I’m always helping
someone who’s not as strong as I am, who is needier than I am. People feel this inequality.
When we help we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give
them: we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity and wholeness. When I
help I am very aware of my own strength. But we don’t serve with our strength, we serve with
ourselves. We draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve, our wounds serve, even
our darkness can serve. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in
life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between
Rachel Naomi Remen is an author, teacher, and promoter in integrative medicine. Together with Michael Lerner, she is a founder of the Cancer Help Program at Commonweal Institute, better known as Commonweal.
IN THE SERVICE OF LIFE by Rachel Naomi Remen. M.D., adapted from a talk given at
a conference of the Institute for Noetic Sciences in July, 1995, and reprinted in the Noetic
Sciences Review, Spring 1996.