In Service To Others…..

“Wounding and healing are not opposites. They’re part of the same thing. It is our wounds that enable us to be compassionate with the wounds of others. It is our limitations that make us kind to the limitations of other people. It is our loneliness that helps us to to find other people or to even know they’re alone with an illness. I think I have served people perfectly with parts of myself I used to be ashamed of. ” – Rachel Naomi Remen

Here is another inspirational  message from my daily emails for Sojourners which has become one of my favorite web places.  As usual lets find out a little about the author of these words from Wikipedia. I believe, but cannot be sure that she is a very prominent physician and one of the founders of CCIDD:

 The Cuernavaca Center for Intercultural Dialogue on Development (CCIDD) is a Christian retreat center located in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. Founded in 1977, CCIDD offers Canadian and American students the opportunity to experience the struggle for justice in Latin America.

Making the journey to CCIDD requires not only the proper emotional state, but also the proper intentions. In an open letter concerning the value of service, Rachel Naomi Remen reminds us all to reevaluate our personal positions with respect to the dichotomy that inevitably exists between the notions of service and help. In effect, service can only be performed in “a relationship between equals” while help is based on a relationship of inequality, especially since it assumes that one side of the relationship is “stronger” than the other. CCIDD therefore does not wish for its students to “help” the local Mexican population; let the tourists do that, it wants its students to “serve” the people. This service can either be direct or indirect. Direct service involves projects like painting schools, composting trash, and building houses. Indirect service includes initiating cross-cultural dialogues, visiting local archaeological sites, and reflecting upon the daily experiences that one undergoes.

I am glad that Sojourners pointed me to the direction of CCIDD. I want to learn more about them. But for now the message of Rachel Naomi Remen is enough to inspire me. The crux of this message is something similar to “if you want to know me walk a mile in my shoes”. Her distinction between service and help is almost an epiphany for me. It answers several questions I have had about some those I take to the local homeless shelter/soup kitchen to help me prepare meals there.

I know from personal experiences, although they might be some years ago, what it feels like to go to bed hungry and to be at a point where there is just not enough money for the basic necessities. With those memories in mind I go to the soup kitchen to provide a small service to those who visit.  I will end the post with the same comment that ends the Sojourners quote. I have served people perfectly with parts of myself I used to be ashamed of. I have learned that there is no shame in any circumstances; there is only shame in how you deal with them.  Lord help me to always know this difference and to get others to understand it.