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How Can I Help? Paperback – March 12, 1985

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"20 Things We'd Tell Our Twentysomething Selves"
Packed full of wisdom that is eye-opening, practical, and inspirational. Check out "20 Things We'd Tell Our Twentysomething Selves".
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Editorial Reviews


"A treasury of compassion, made all the more valuable by its many examples of how individuals can interact for the better with people and, indeed, the world around them." --Norman Cousins, author of Anantomy of an Illness

"How Can I Help? deserves a special place on that shelf reserved for truly practical wisdom." --Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People

"How Can I Help? is a gentle, tender, spiritual book." --Karl Menninger, M.D., F.A.P.A

From the Inside Flap

Not a day goes by without our being called upon to help one another--at home, at work, on the street, on the phone. . . . We do what we can. Yet so much comes up to complicate this natural response: "Will I have what it takes?" "How much is enough?" "How can I deal with suffering?" "And what really helps, anyway?"

In this practical helper's companion, the authors explore a path through these confusions, and provide support and inspiration fo us in our efforts as members of the helping professions, as volunteers, as community activists, or simply as friends and family trying to meet each other's needs. Here too are deeply moving personal accounts: A housewife brings zoo animals to lift the spirits of nursing home residents; a nun tends the wounded on the first night of the Nicaraguan revolution; a police officer talks a desperate father out of leaping from a roof with his child; a nurse allows an infant to spend its last moments of life in her arms rather than on a hospital machine. From many such stories and the authors' reflections, we can find strength, clarity, and wisdom for those times when we are called on to care for one another. How Can I Help? reminds us just how much we have to give and how doing so can lead to some of the most joyous moments of our lives.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (March 12, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394729471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394729473
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Ram Dass, one of America's most beloved spiritual figures, has made his mark on the world giving teachings and promoting loving service, harmonious business practices, and conscious care for the dying. His spirit has been a guiding light for four generations, carrying millions along on the journey, helping free them from their bonds as he has worked his way through his own. He makes his home in Maui.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Dan Windisch on January 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a professor I've used this book for 10 years for an intro class for counseling. I believe that it has had a powerful influence (through the true stories in the book) turning out compassionate and caring counselors. It is a GREAT book. We are not taught compassion, or how to help others. We see little examples of how to care or be helpful in the media (many examples there or how to do violence though!). This book provides true stories of the nature of compassion and helping.
I recommend it highly for anyone who wants to help others. I think it is an essential book for anyone who wants to help others
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Batya Swift Yasgur MA, MSW on July 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
I am a social worker and an author. I have recently become involved with writing about medical as well as human rights issues. (My book BEHIND THE BURQA, which is to be published in October by John Wiley, is the memoir of two women who escaped the brutality of Afghanistan and the suffering they endured in the US.) Through my work, I have come into contact with people, such as the two subjects of my book, who have endured excruciating circumstances. HOW CAN I HELP sits on my night table so that I can read it after I've come home from interviewing someone in pain. It addresses all the issues that come up when people try to help each other, whether as "helping professionals" or simply as friends or family who are reaching out--guilt, burnout, fear, sense of helplessness--the myriad emotions that afflict those who want to make a difference in the lives of others. HOW CAN I HELP is psychologically astute, spiritually enlightening and written with great gentleness, compassion and occasional moments of humor. I feel the authors have become my mentors and friends. They accompany me to detention centers when I interview imprisoned asylum-seekers who have fled horrific tortures. They're with me when I visit people in the hospital. Their wisdom and guidance inspire me and inform my ability to remain intimately involved with people who have undergone horrible suffering. This book should be required reading in medical schools, psychology and social work programs, and any other context in which people are being trained to work with others in need.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Susi on November 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is really a great book. My copy is a mess because I've thumbed through it for so many years. People in the "helping professions" (and I'm counting myself here - a psych nurse - but also psychologists, social workers, counselors, etc) tend to get bogged down in the details of particular therapies. But ultimately, that is not what is really helpful. It's more about how you connect with that person you're helping. Can you really just stop and listen authentically and love another human being enough to do whatever is really helpful at that particular time? That's why I love this book. Even though I have moments of cynicism, I can pick up this book and become inspired again. The stories are very simple and sweet. It helps me remember that I can't help everyone but the ones I's's like no more "helper" and "helpee"...just this amazingly connected human experience.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is filled with insights. These insights are hidden gems of wisdom revealing our personalities desire to seek and find what we all have in common. This unity is driven by our need and desire to find peace in the midst of life's most difficult moments. As our heart goes out to those in need, our acts of service contain our soul's longing to connect with a fellow soul. Once our soul is awakened in service, a path opens and leads us into a sacred human relationship infused by the power of peace. Thanks, Ram Dass, for your guidance into the realm of spirit through the words written in this book.
I also recommend: What the Dying Teach Us: Lessons on Living by Samuel Oliver
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My wife and I are both first person volunteers (Red Cross and St. Vincent de Paul Society) and we both have full time jobs. I thought that we know about helping until I read this book.

Basically, it starts with a focus on knowing and understanding yourself, tossing in a little mediation practice for good measure. If you are helping to feel better about yourself, you are not really helping.

Along the way there are, as other reviewers have said, inspirational stories that (well) inspire. It is a great balance of discussion and insight with stories about service.

When I got to the section on burn-out, I presumed that I know the answers. I have survive burnout and read several really good books on the subject. Relax, step back, etc. This book has an entirely different perspective that I think is more useful than the other books.

If you want to help people, and I presume if you are reading this book that you do, then you should consider reading this book. Thanks for helping.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jim GS on May 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
There are few books that can change your life. I believe that at certain points in our emotional development, influences cause us to head off in different directions. I was lucky to have discovered this book at a critical point in my life. It essentially saved me. I sometimes wonder how some people can be so cruel and ignorant - how they can be so biased. This book not only helps the reader to understand the spiritual nature of helping, but it also gently instructs the reader on the true meaning of love and respect.
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