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How Can I Help?: Stories and Reflections on Service Paperback – March 12, 1985
"Happy This Year!" by Will Bowen
A practical, yet inspirational work that proposes it’s the inner world of our psyches that determines happiness, not outside forces. | Learn more
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"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
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 th
- Publisher : Alfred A. Knopf (March 12, 1985)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 272 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0394729471
- ISBN-13 : 978-0394729473
- Item Weight : 10.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 5 x 0.79 x 7.85 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #64,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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The book I read for this course was Ram Dass and Paul Gorman's How Can I Help? Stories and Reflections on Service. This book’s format consists of descriptions of the elements of service work leading up to stories of assistance, followed by analyses of said stories. In doing so, the authors covered all the different stages one can go through in regards to service work. There was much emphasis placed on the mental effects and internal thoughts that occur in the midst of each phase, everything from the initial longing to help—often spurred on by what they referred to as "natural compassion" (because it comes without trying)—to burnout (vii). I appreciated that they acknowledged all the different aspects of helping others. Because so often the books and people promoting the giving of one's time in service neglect to say or acknowledge that it is perfectly normal and alright to be nervous, overwhelmed, or worn out at any stage of the process—and that feeling this way does not make one less of a good person. It is like what Dass and Gorman stated “Discomfort in the presence of suffering is usually less toxic and infectious when it’s no longer denied…we’re no longer running away, glancing over our shoulder. We can stop and face what’s right before us,” (67). I found this concept assuring, especially since earlier this term, I had felt bad admitting in one of my journal entries that I was dreading adding another commitment to my already loaded plate. But as soon as I chose to put that thought out there I started to feel better about the whole situation because I was no longer trying to force down and avoid the thoughts I was having. But attempting to do so is like when someone tells you to “not think about elephants.” What do you ultimately end up doing? You cannot seem to stop thinking about elephants. Putting my thoughts out there in the open helped me to move forward in the process of serving instead of holding me back.
I would not say this book "informed" so much as it as "affirmed." But, if I had read this at the very beginning of the term, I might have leaned towards the reverse some. Because it supported many of the discussions that we have had in class, even going so far as to compare and contrast “compassion” and “pity:”
“We may feel a little moved to respond to the suffering—we’d feel guilty or uncomfortable if we didn’t—but we’d like to get it all over with as soon as possible and get on with our own affairs. Compassion and pity are very different. Whereas compassion reflects the yearning of the heart to merge and take on some of the suffering, pity is a controlled set of thoughts designed to assure separateness. Compassion is the spontaneous response of love; pity, the involuntary reflex of fear,” (62).
Thus, I think this could very well serve as a good text to support the weekly class discussions. As for myself, I think it will be a good reference to keep on hand for information and inspiration—at least for the duration of this term.
This book was quite wordy. I am all for poetic speech, but there were many times I felt that the authors did not know when to quit. It is as if they had a minimum word court or page number quota that they felt they needed to fulfill in order to be published and taken seriously. This is not to say that they did not have worthwhile or poignant things to say, because they truly did; my copy of the book is littered with colorful strips of torn sticky notes. But rather, I mention this to point out that the last one hundred pages or so are unmarked because the authors spent them saying what they had already said before quite a few times already. Because of this, I would not necessarily recommend reading this book all at once, as it can begin to feel repetitive and mind-numbing.
I think this is a good book to have on hand to turn to when you need encouragement or reminders that it is perfectly acceptable and understandable to feel the way that you do. Feeling inspired to help others but you have concerns? Check out chapter one: “Natural Compassion.” Starting to feel worn out by your service work? “Burnout” (chapter seven) could be just what you need right now (vii).
I had the pleasure of recommending "How can I Help" as a text for many years while I taught Inter and Interpersonal skills to many classes of people preparing for Rehab Counseling.and Special Education professions.
A student recommended it to me more than twenty years ago.
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.