SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What are the implications in your life of the distinctions between serving, helping and fixing? Can you share a personal story of an experience where you were mindful of these distinctions? How can we move from helping and fixing to serving?
My humanity rests in my ability to respond in Love; because I am Love. If I let myself Be without judgment, without comparing, without even trying to understand, then I'm manifesting Love; and I leave it at that . Our "help"may or may not be helpful in terms of how we see someone elses situation in relation to how they see it or how anyone else might see it; I am acting and I watch my thoughts, in the end that's all that relevant because that is all there is.
I understand this text to be about the attitude one brings to an action, not about the action itself. The author doesn't say "Don't help people in need", but "Before assisting/supporting/helping someone, do yourself and the other person a favor and double-check your intention, because receiving help/support from somebody who truly knows their own humanity and the helped person's wholeness is a lot more fun".
We learn so much about ourselves by sharing a part of ourselves with someone else like this amazing perspectve. Love it!
This is a topic that's close to my heart... Take care! Where are your contact details though?
Wow, what a profound article. Really inspiring Thanks so much
Indeed, we need more reflection on the nature of helpfulness and service such as Rachel Remen's article represents. While the distinction Rachel makes contributes several important insights, the concepts of helping and service are not as cleanly separated as she seems to suggest. As another responder suggested, helpfulness may be a more important focus. By either name -- helping or service -- an act done on behalf of or for another can be expected to be 'helpful'. Perhaps we can think about both helping and service as actions performed in varying degrees of 'helpfulness'. We've all experienced someone 'helping' that wasn't helpful. Likewise, waiters and waitresses who 'serve' us may be either more or less 'helpful'. The point is that the servant or helper is 'serving' and 'helping' but the quality of the interaction is independent of the roles (and labels) of the participants.
My preferred word for our highest value is helping or helpfulness. I think it is a little more action oriented and covers more situations than kindness. Kindness is usually perceived as a gentleness or soft demeanor which is usually helpful but perhaps not always. I could be kind to someone but my kind demeanor may not always be helpful. I can also be helpful and not be kind. In helping the judge of helpfulness is the recipient of helping, the helpee. I can't say I am helpful unless the helpee agrees I am helpful. I can feel love and compassion and not be helpful. I can display kind behavior and not be helpful. But I can't be helpful unless the helpee says it is helpful. The criteria of helping actually makes things more complicated which is more life like. For example, acts of helpfulness for some must be weighed against potential harm for others. Short term helpfulness must be weighed against long term helpfulness. Helpfulness for humans must be weighed against harm for Earth and its other species. And if the helpee doesn't have the capacity to judge what is helpful like a child or a dementia patient, how do we find the right expertise that is truly helpful to them and not to just helpful to us. I don't think that kindness is a broad enough concept to deal with all of those situations. Love, compassion, and kindness, in my opinion, are all ultimately judged by the criteria of helpfulness. That for me makes it our highest value and we should focus on that and supplement it with love, compassion, and kindness. TEHM is The Evolving Helping Movement, pronounced “team,” humanity's assumed highest value. TEHM is already everywhere. Helping is rooted in attraction. Attraction was present at the dawn of the universe as hydrogen molecules were attracted to each other and started the fusion process resulting in galaxies of stars. This 13.7 billion year history of the universe demonstrates the evolving process of attraction and its creations. Attracting activity appears to be the basic reality of our universe. This attracting force helped to create our sun and our planet Earth. All of these evolving, creative forces appear to have helped us and continue to help us unintentionally. Those are the unintentional actions of TEHM based on the best evidence we have to date. Somewhere during our evolutionary history our forebears began to practice helping as a way to improve their lives. Intentional helping was created to complement unintentional helping. Humans made specific decisions to help one another and that started the intentional actions of TEHM which has created what we call civilization. Everyone is a helper to some degree. Helping is a win-win situation. It helps the helpee, the one who receives the help, but it also provides the greatest experience of life satisfaction for the helper, the one who gives help. TEHM is beyond anyone’s control and continues to bubble up from the grass roots of humanity. Every group organized by human beings is for the purpose of helping. Every job contributes in a narrow way to TEHM. The most powerful way to strengthen TEHM is to help people identify TEHM that is already present in our midst and in the vast universe of which we are a part.[Hide Full Comment]
We are all "10"s! Not one of us can do what we do without the aid/support/service of our brothers and sisters. If we say we can, we lie. And equality does matter (in my mind) to ensure the dignity and respect of every person's contribution/service.
I can remember walking to school (as early as 1st grade) and noting an adult in our community be, regularly, persecuted by 6 year old peers. This gentleman worked for the village crew . . . most notably in garbage collection. He was kind, friendly and took great pride in his work (hanging off the back end of the garbage truck). I secretly wished this gentleman would stop 'serving' his persecutors. NOT picking up their garbage would surely demonstrate the value of his gift.
We are one body, indivisible with liberty and justice and equality for all. lfm
I'm afraid I don't agree with Rachel in the article.
What I "hear" her saying is that, when at a buffet dinner meeting and I am helping or assisting a friend who is recovering from a stroke and walks with a cane, by carrying his/her food to their table that I am expecting something in return, to which I say -- Not So! I am serving a need. Now if that person tells me they do not need my assistance (and I have had people decline my assistance, once even with a wheelchair bound man), all well and good, at least I provided an opportunity to serve that need.
When I correct an employee who is violating a safety policy and could get hurt, am I fixing the person, helping the person or serving a training need to explain the correct safety procedure. I say I am serving a need to make that person a better employee that might prevent their being terminated unreasonably.
I get the implication that Rachel doesn't like the word "serve". There are several ways an individual can serve the needs of others, which turn out to be assisting, mentoring, training, helping, etc.
Maxwell says we should treat everyone like a "10". In that regard service is a relationship among equals. Quite frankly, I feel it has nothing to do with equality, serving others is an obligation as a leader - the magnitude of the service and the outcome is what is important. Servant Leaders don't look for rewards, things in return, or a debt that needs to be repaid.[Hide Full Comment]
We need to avoid romanticizing service. Who wants to be identified as a servant? We are equal in dignity as human beings. We may not be equal in competence. I agree with the author's concern to clarify the negative connotations of the terms 'helping' and 'fixing'.
Sense for serving is usually born with you. Triggering incidences can evoke the overpowering desire to serve. When I serve, I do not think about if he/she/organization deserves to be served. If someone took my services with exploitation in their heart, it is their problem, my problem was I did not take time to recognize the negative aspect of the serving. One day, I have to answer to God.
I wrote earlier, that 'Serving Loves'. True "serving" is of God who IS LOVE. For love of the body, the heart serves it. For love of the body, the skin protects it. For love and service of the body, the digestive tract takes in nourishment and eliminates waste . . .
Serving loves! It is NOT out of pity or moral obligation the heart, skin and digestive tract serve the body . . . rather, it is because God created it FOR that purpose. We do what we do because God made us for a specific plan and/or for that specific purpose. Interdependent we are.
Listening to God is key. He counts on us to listen and obey . . . to direct our 'service'/way.
Personally, I best serve when I am in God/working IN LOVE. Outside of Love, I can do nothing.
Very much respecting you and this entry. SO TRUE! Thank you!
1. Once, when the Buddha was dwelling near Savatthi at Jeta Grove, in Anathapindika’s park, the householder Anathapindika visited him, and after greeting him politely sat down at one side.
2. The Exalted One addressed Anathapindika: “Are alms given in your house, householder?”
3. “Yes, Lord, alms are given by my family, but they only consist of broken rice and sour gruel.”
4. “Householder, whether one gives coarse or choice alms, if one gives them without respect, without thought, not by one’s own hand, gives only leftovers, and without belief in the result of actions, then wherever he is reborn as a result of his having given these alms, his mind will not turn to the enjoyment of fine food and clothing, fine vehicles or the fine objects of the five senses. His children, wife, servants, and labourers will not obey him, and neither listen nor pay attention to him. And why is that so? Because this is the result of actions done without respect.
5. “But whether one gives coarse or choice alms, if one gives them with respect, thoughtfully, by one’s own hand, gives things that are not leftovers, and with belief in the result of actions, then wherever he is reborn as a result of his having given these alms, his mind will turn to the enjoyment of fine food, clothes and vehicles, and of the finer objects of the five senses. His children, wife, servants, and labourers will obey him, listen and pay attention to him. And why is this? Because this is the result of actions done with respect.
6. “Long ago, householder, there lived a brahman called Velama. He gave very valuable gifts such as these: He gave eighty-four thousand golden bowls filled with silver; he gave eighty-four thousand silver bowls filled with gold; he gave eighty-four thousand copper bowls filled with jewels; he gave eighty-four thousand horses with trappings, banners and nets of gold; he gave eighty-four thousand carriages spread with lion skins, tiger skins and leopard skins, with saffron-coloured blankets, with golden trappings, banners and nets; he gave eighty-four thousand milk-giving cows with fine jute ropes and silver milk pails; he gave eighty-four thousand bejewelled maidens; he gave beds with covers of fleece, white blankets, embroidered coverlets, covered with antelope skins, with awnings, and with crimson cushions at the ends; he gave eighty-four thousand lengths of cloth of the best flax, silk, wool, and cotton. And who could describe all the food both hard and soft kinds, sweets and syrups that he gave? They flowed like rivers.
7. “Perhaps, householder, you think that the brahman Velama who made that very valuable gift was someone else. Do not think that; it was I who was Velama the brahman who made that very valuable gift.
8. “But when those alms were given, householder, there were no recipients worthy of the gift. Although the brahman Velama gave such a valuable gift, if he had fed one person of right view, the fruit of the latter deed would have been greater.
9. “Though he gave that very rich gift, or though he fed a hundred people of right view, the fruit of feeding a Once-returner would have been greater.
10. “Though he gave that very valuable gift, or though he fed a hundred Once-returners, the fruit of feeding one Non-returner would have been greater.
11. “… though he fed a hundred Non-returners, the fruit of feeding one Arahat would have been greater.
12. “… though he fed a hundred Arahats, the fruit of feeding one Non-Teaching Buddha would have been greater.
13. “… though he fed a hundred Non-Teaching Buddhas, the fruit of feeding one Perfect One, a Teaching Buddha, would have been greater.
14. “. . . though he fed one Perfect One, a Teaching Buddha, the fruit of feeding the Order of monks (Sangha) with the Buddha at its head would have been greater. 
15. “… though he fed the Order of monks with the Buddha at its head, the fruit of building a monastery for the use of the monks of the Order of the surrounding country would have been greater.
16. “… though he built a monastery for the Order, the fruit of sincerely taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha would have been greater.
17. “… though he sincerely took refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, the fruit of sincerely undertaking to keep the moral precepts, abstaining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and intoxicants causing sloth, would have been greater.
18. “… though he sincerely undertook those precepts, the fruit of developing [concentration on radiating universal] loving kindness [metta] even just to the extent of a whiff of scent, would have been greater.
19. “… though he developed loving kindness to the extent of a whiff of scent, the fruit of cultivating the thought of impermanence, even for the moment of a finger snap, would have been greater.”
the Velama Sutta
I hope you enjoyed :)
Offered in metta - Paul