by Mike Melara, Executive Director
My daughter, who is majoring in Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Scranton, recently sent me an article by Rachel Remen. I thought to myself, in my most condescending voice, “How cute of Juliana to send me this article.” And then I read the piece. And I was humbled. Not by any significant revelation. But more by the fact that the article describes how our staff, my staff, work every day at Catholic Charities. Remen says, “Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, but service is the work of the soul.”
We serve over 20,000 people every year at Catholic Charities, ranging in age from infants to senior citizens. We work with those members of our community who are most vulnerable and in greatest need. But it is the way we work with them that matters the most. Remen nails it when she states,
“Service rests on the premise that the nature of life is sacred, that life is a holy mystery which has an unknown purpose. From the perspective of service, we are all connected. All suffering is like my suffering and all joy is like my joy. Serving is different from helping. Helping is not a relationship between equals. A helper may see others as weaker than they are, needier than they are, and people often feel this inequity.” In the process of “helping” we may diminish the other’s self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity or even wholeness.
At Catholic Charites, we share the same humanity as the people we serve. We recognize ourselves in them. Service is a relationship between equals. And our service strengthens us as well as others.
Mike Melara is Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Onondaga County.