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The Hidden Gifts of Helping: How the Power of Giving, Compassion, and Hope Can Get Us Through Hard Times Hardcover – February 22, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Post (When Good Things Happen to Good People), president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, pens a hopeful text for hopeless times. His own job loss forced him and his family to relocate in 2008, and he writes poignantly of what he's personally lived through. No stranger to the emotional and spiritual difficulties that accompany any major life change, the author shares intimately how he put into practice the biblical principle of "giving unto others" as he worked through his own grief, sorrow, and loss during the transition that uprooted his family. The lessons Post learned make up this practical resource that urges purposeful giving, even while feeling the stings of disappointment and hardship. Post's work is more than a feel-good read. It's today's handbook for survival. (Mar.)
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"Post (When Good Things Happen to Good People), president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, pens a hopeful text for hopeless times. His own job loss forced him and his family to relocate in 2008, and he writes poignantly of what he's personally lived through. No stranger to the emotional and spiritual difficulties that accompany any major life change, the author shares intimately how he put into practice the biblical principle of "giving unto others" as he worked through his own grief, sorrow, and loss during the transition that uprooted his family. The lessons Post learned make up this practical resource that urges purposeful giving, even while feeling the stings of disappointment and hardship. Post's work is more than a feel-good read. It's today's handbook for survival." (Publishers Weekly, January 10, 2011
“This inspirational, motivational, and feel good book will leave you bursting with an overflowing bucket list of things you will want to do.”
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It is hard to imagine a more effective, popular presentation of a message that should be more familiar: Helping others is good medicine for our own suffering. Post is a medical ethicist with a specialty on care for Alzheimer's patients, and his spirituality is both traditional and creative. He asks, "Why not start referring to God as Unlimited Love, being explicit about the divine nature? This would preclude people from ever thinking of God as Unlimited Hatred or Unlimited Anger."
Post writes of our society being caught up with television, computers, e-mail, text messages, and social media. "These virtual connections do not sustain themselves in the absence of real interactions." Having seen Stephen Post interact with audiences in the classroom, in church, and in an auditorium, I have seen in action his ability to minister with his very large supply of amazingly helpful knowledge. It is something he can call on in detail, without notes, whenever a human need expresses itself. This man is a treasure in our world, and this book offers the reader a chance for a virtual meeting that is remarkably faithful to the experience of the man himself.
Post is the Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at New York's Stony Brook University. There, he studies and teaches about the benefits of compassionate medical care to both patients and medical professionals. But for 20 years, beginning in 1988, he held the position of tenured professor at Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. Then, suddenly in 2008, the head of his department literally yanked Post's job out from under him, announcing that if Post wanted to stay, he had to provide his own salary. Which was effectively telling him to get lost.
Instead, Post moved his wife, Mitsuko, and 13 year old, Andrew, to the north shore of Long Island to assume his new position at Stony Brook. And it was this uprooting that inspired Post to write "The Hidden Gifts of Helping." Because, initially, the move was extremely difficult for all of them. Early on, Post states, "moving from a place where you feel deeply connected is documented as one of the most stressful things humans can do ... such moves rank just under the loss of a spouse as among the chief causes of stress in America."
What gives this book real power is that Post buttresses his professional insight - gleaned over decades as a scholar, researcher, teacher, and author - with the very personal story of the pain this upheaval brought to his family, and how each of them worked through the pain to find new meaning and identity by reaching out to others. "The Hidden Gifts of Helping" fascinates because it shows the remarkable journey of a man actively walking his talk. For his entire professional life, Post has studied and written and preached about love, compassion, hope, and service. Suddenly he has to live these beliefs while helping himself and his family move beyond the resentment and bitterness of forced dislocation.
Post puts it clearly, "When all else fails, we can still give to others." He has a wide array of research at his fingertips to demonstrate that giving one's self to others - in volunteering, at work, or at home - leads to healthier, longer, more meaningful lives, whether you're an adolescent or a card-carrying member of AARP. And Post's book offers a lot of practical advice about volunteering: both in finding your passion, applying your gifts, and learning your limits.
But what keeps you turning pages, and cheering inwardly, are the personal narratives you encounter in "The Hidden Gifts of Helping." In addition to the Post family, you'll meet many of the inspirational people that Post has encountered over the years; you'll read their stories and marvel at the ability of the human spirit to transcend and triumph over adversity - not by demanding, but by giving.
Often, it seems we have more to do than we can manage. Nonetheless, do yourself a favor and read this book. It may very well change your life.
Bill Kramer, author of "Unexpected Grace: stories of faith, science, and altruism."
But what really sells his message -- and indeed it is a message that we all desperately need to hear in this time of economic hardship, crass consumerism, and political demagoguery -- is that his message is delivered not by the smug gurus on the well-heeled positive thinking speaker's circuit, but by ordinary people in unenviable life situations: a woman suffering from cerebral palsy, another who is a quadriplegic, a man battling cancer on the brink of financial ruin who recently lost his marriage and job, and a father whose daughter was brutally murdered. At first glance, these messengers of hope seem to deserve our pity. Upon closer inspection, it is probably we who need their sympathy. For they have discovered the secret to real, lasting happiness that seems to elude so many of us.
The power of Post's message is enhanced by his candor about difficulties in his own life (and in his family) and how he surmounted them by putting into practice the timeless wisdom of benevolent service. Where others lament the intractability of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Post reminds us of the large body of scientific literature on Post-Traumatic Growth. And rather than glossing over suffering in the service of some vacuous affirmation of the pseudo-power of (self-centered) positive thinking, Post deals with suffering directly and demonstrates the real power of self- and other-directed benevolent actions. After reading this book, few will contest the evidence that helping others is clearly a win/win situation that also benefits the helper.
If we are mystified by life it is because we cannot see with clarity that Unlimited Love is both our foundation and purpose. Few authors writing today have made this point as thoughtfully and consistently as Stephen Post. His impressive efforts as founding president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love to bring science to bear on this topic are evident in the pages of this book. But what sets this book apart from others he has written on Unlimited Love and related subjects is the inclusion of his personal narrative showing how he has used his knowledge to overcome significant difficulties. We all experience such hardships as he describes and we can find hope in the power of generous love. It goes without saying that the dominant institutions in our society are not organized on principles of this kind of love. But thankfully, as this book demonstrates, we are not merely prisoners of this reality. We can create something better by experiencing the hidden gifts of helping.
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