Thursday, February 19, 2009

Serving versus "helping"

photo from Elephant Nature Park
Thailand, 2008

The role(s) and boundaries of professional health care providers,' most especially at end of life, requires constant awareness of self, purpose, and goal. Given the intimacy and sacredness that accompanies this service, it is often complicated and difficult to draw lines of safety and professionalism...for ourselves and for those we serve.

The following quote, from Frank Ostaseski, (of Metta Institute), reaches and touches this delicate subject at the truest and deepest levels...

“You see, at the very heart of service we understand that

the act of caring is always mutually beneficial. We

understand that in nurturing others we are always caring

for ourselves, and this understanding fundamentally shifts

the way we provide care. .."Compassion," when literally translated means "suffering with others" and "with'" is the most important word, because it implies

belonging. "Companion” is "one who travels with another."

So in this relationship there is no guide, there is no healer

and no one healed; we simply accompany one another.

And as my friend Reb Anderson says, "We are simply

walking through birth and death holding hands."

If we are paying attention as we walk into the room of

someone dying, we immediately understand, in a visceral

way, just how precarious this life is. As we understand

that, we also come to see how precious it is. When we

keep death close at hand, we become less compulsive

about our desires, we take ourselves and our ideas a little

less seriously, and we let go more easily. We become

more open to generosity and to love. Paradoxically,

working with the dying will make us kinder to one

another. In the face of death everything we normally

identify with ourselves will either be stripped away by

illness or given up gracefully – but it all goes. "I'm a

father, I'm a mother, I'm a hospice worker" – whatever our

notion about our identity, it will go.

Helping incurs debt. When you help someone, they owe

you. But service is mutual. When I help I have a feeling of

satisfaction, but when I serve I have a feeling of gratitude.

Serving is also different to fixing. We fix broken pipes,

we don't fix people. When I set about fixing another

person, it's because I see them as broken. Fixing is a form

of judgment that separates us from one another; it creates

a distance. So fundamentally, helping, fixing and serving are ways of

seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak; when

you fix, you see life as broken; and when you serve, you

see life as whole. When we serve in this way, we

understand that this person's suffering is also my

suffering, that their joy is also my joy and then the

impulse to serve arises naturally -- our natural wisdom and

compassion presents itself quite simply. A server knows

that they're being used and has the willingness to be …When we serve, we are always in the service of wholeness. Caring for those who are suffering, whether or not they are dying, wakes us up. It opens up our hearts and our

minds. It opens us up to the experience of this wholeness

that I speak of. More often than not, though, we are caught

in the habitual roles and ideas that keep us separate from

each other. Lost in some reactive mind state, busy trying

to protect our self-image, we cut ourselves off and isolate

ourselves from that which would really serve and inform

our work. To be people who heal, we have to be willing to

bring our passion to the bedside; our own wounds, our

fear, our full selves. Yes, it is the exploration of our own

suffering that forms a bridge to the person we're serving.”

May we continue to serve with our own wholeness and brokenness. May we always understand and hold the integrity of service and sharing at the core of our work. May we always explore within and without...believing in the path of transcendence and transformation.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A Humanitarian Journey...

photo by DBL
Mbita, Kenya, Africa

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead

Today, several of my colleagues left the U.S. to visit Kenya, to support the Foundations for Sub Saharan Africa and their partner VIAGENCO. They will bring medical supplies, equipment, medical expertise, and compassion to the worthy and noble.

May we all continue to reach out to humanity and the world at large with generosity and open hearts' and minds.'