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Service has a life of its own. A single act of kindness may have a long trajectory and touch those we will never meet or see.

Rachel Naomi Remen


Service Has a Life of Its Own

Topic: Serving Others

Service has a life of its own. A single act of kindness may have a long trajectory and touch those we will never meet or see. Something that we casually offer may move through a web of connection far beyond ourselves to have effects that we may have never imagined. And so each of us may have left far more behind us than we may ever know.

Rachel Naomi Remen

Rachel Naomi Remen was born on February 8, 1938, in New York, New York. Her upbringing, rich in diverse religious influences, including the teachings of Saint Luke the Physician and the wisdom of her grandfather, an Orthodox rabbi, instilled in her a respect for the healing power of storytelling and the human spirit. This eclectic spiritual background guided her toward a medical career that extends beyond treating physical ailments, focusing on the holistic understanding and nurturing of individuals.

As a pediatrician who embraced integrative medicine, Remen became a pivotal figure in medical education. She is a Clinical Professor Emeritus at UCSF School of Medicine and a Professor of Family Medicine at Wright State University. In 1991, she founded the Remen Institute for the Study of Health and Illness (RISHI), carving a niche for healthcare professionals eager to blend compassion with clinical practice. Her course, The Healer’s Art, reflects her holistic approach, influencing medical students globally to adopt professionalism and empathy as core values.

Remen's literary contributions, including her bestselling books "Kitchen Table Wisdom" and "My Grandfather’s Blessings," resonate with readers worldwide, available in 23 languages. These narratives intertwine the human experience with the healing power of connection, showcasing her belief in the interplay between diverse spiritual traditions and medicine. Her home, adorned with Buddhas, mirrors her inclusive spiritual journey, embracing elements from various faiths that underscore her holistic approach to healing. Despite her chronic illness, Remen's work has garnered significant recognition, underscoring her commitment to a medicine that cares for the soul as much as the body, a testament to her belief in the universal capacity for healing and connection.

Emergent Spirituality

Remen, Rachel Naomi. My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging. Riverhead Books, 2001.

Rachel Naomi Remen

Theme: Serving

About This Rachel Naomi Remen Quotation [Commentary]

Rachel Naomi Remen’s insight into service as a life force underscores the far-reaching impact of kindness. She suggests that even the smallest acts can extend far beyond our immediate scope, creating a network of positive influence. This view shifts our focus from the size of an act to the intention behind it, highlighting the belief that even minimal gestures can have significant effects. Remen encourages us to practice kindness for the collective benefit, emphasizing the unseen potential of our actions to contribute to a greater good.

Drawing from her grandfather’s teachings and her personal journey as a physician, Remen portrays service as a path to discovering our wholeness. She presents serving others not just as altruism but as a means of personal and communal healing. This approach, rooted in the wisdom of interconnectedness, suggests that true fulfillment comes from contributing to the well-being of others. Through her narrative, Remen illustrates that life’s essence lies not in grand achievements but in the genuine act of serving with an open heart.

Remen invites us to see the act of blessing others as a potent form of service, emphasizing the mutual enrichment of giving and receiving. This perspective nurtures our sense of belonging and highlights the transformative power of kindness. By adopting the belief that our actions can restore wholeness in the world, Remen calls us to live intentionally, fostering connections that bind us. Her message encourages a life of service as an act of love, aimed at crafting a more compassionate world.

About “My Grandfather’s Blessing”

“My Grandfather’s Blessings” by Rachel Naomi Remen blends her grandfather’s wisdom with her experiences as a physician to illuminate life’s interconnectedness. Through stories that emphasize blessing others to heal and connect, Remen’s book receives acclaim for its heartfelt narratives and insights into healing, loving, and living. Luminary peers such as Andrew T. Weil, M.D., Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., Marianne Williamson, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, and Caroline Myss celebrate the book for its ability to touch the human heart and impart profound lessons. It highlights the importance of recognizing life’s blessings and how serving others fosters our own healing and wholeness. Remen invites readers to embrace their role in nurturing the world’s collective well-being, presenting a compelling case for the transformative power of kindness and connection.