“In the Service of Life”

During my first semester of graduate school at La Salle University, a (now favorite) professor of mine gave me and my classmates an article to read by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.  called, “In the Service of Life”. The article talked about the importance of seeing life as a series of opportunities to be in service to one another, instead of just helping one another. It’s just a semantic difference, but Dr. Remen argues that when we think of ourselves as helping someone we put ourselves in a position of power over them; we’re essentially saying, “you’re not strong right now, but I am, so I’ll help you.” She advocates that we approach our life’s work as servants, because “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.” In other words, when we seek to serve, instead of help, each other, we are simply saying, “here’s what I –through my life’s experiences– have to offer you today”. When we are in the service of life, we are not at all thinking of ourselves as greater, stronger, more powerful in any way. There is room for all and we seek to find the wholeness in everyone we meet.

The idea of serving and being in service is on my mind today because I recently volunteered my time to serve a meal to families staying at one of the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald Houses. Then, I helped serve my church’s Seder meal last night. These two experiences were humbling because I realized I couldn’t do it all. I had to recognize my life’s experiences and use what I’ve learned along the way in order to be the best servant possible.

I’m not yet sure how this idea of being in the service of life applies to overeating or mindless eating. But as I contemplate my own role in the lives of others, it helps me to recognize that I am merely serving my readers. I’ll leave you with a short statement that I wrote in calligraphy and put in a frame on my desk: “Nestled somewhere deep inside each of us, no matter how broken we may seem, is a profound wholeness.” May each of us seek to serve the wholeness in each other.

Peace, joy, and health.



2 thoughts on ““In the Service of Life”

  1. Anna says:

    There is such an important, ever-so-subtle distinction. I am seeing a counselor right now who makes me feel valued, not in what she says, but just in her demeanor. Often in therapeutic settings, I feel like I am “getting help” (that slight difference). It’s something I want to be able to emulate one day, because it has made a world of difference to me. This post helped put words to what I am experiencing, which helps me understand it better. So, thank you! 🙂

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