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Stepping in to Serve

October 13, 2010

Stepping in to Serve:

 As a rabbi, I have a great deal of contact with those who are ill. It is simply part of the job territory. My heart always breaks for those who are in the hospital and for their families who are in fear for their loved ones’ well being. The choice of how we deal with illness is, however, just as varied as the choice of how we deal with everyday life.

A while back, an individual who fills a leadership role in an area synagogue took ill. The community rallied around him. So many offered visits, calls and prayers. Others wondered if there was some other way they could help. Perhaps the family needed meals. People stepped forth to support the entire family, and the family, in turn, stepped in to support the synagogue. The result is that a man who became ill was able to take his time to heal in a loving and supportive environment, because others had picked up the pieces in their willingness to serve.

The effect of illness on family and friends can be debilitating. It might cause depression, fatigue, confusion, even anger. When faced with illness or difficulty, there is another option, however, and it is reflected in the actions of these individuals. Dr. Joshua Haberman, founder for the Foundation for Jewish Studies, quotes psychiatrist Dr. Karl MenningerAsked what he would do if he felt a nervous breakdown coming on, Menninger replied that he would “go across the street and help another person.”

What an extraordinary concept! When someone we love is ill or in crisis we often feel helpless and at a loss; the experience for loved ones can be just as challenging as it is for the one who is ill. Dr. Haberman tells us that in our relationships we recover our sense of purpose, in who we can be for others. When illness falls or when difficulties arise, we can look for a way to step in and serve. As we help the ones we love, we can simultaneously find personal meaning, guiding us through the struggle of those difficult moments.

Robin Damsky

Robin Damsky is the rabbi of West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest, Illinois, and co-author of Find-Fulfill-Flourish: Discover Your Purpose with LifePath GPS – a book, tool kit, and workshop series focused on guiding people toward more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

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