she was four years old, doctor and writer Rachel Remen's grandfather
gave her a paper cup filled with dirt, which he instructed her to water
daily. Day after day, she lovingly added water to the cup of dirt, then
just as she was about to give up, a plant sprouted. Through this
exercise and others, her grandfather taught her that the "spark of
God" exists everywhere.
Through a series of stories
in her book, My
Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging, she encourages
her readers to recognize and celebrate the unexpected blessings in their
lives. Though her experiences as a medical student and a physician
working with cancer patients contribute to her recollections, the most
memorable ones relate to her intense relationship with her grandfather,
who died when she was seven. Her simple yet powerful stories help her
readers to recognize the good things in life.
Remen uses the heart-rending stories of some of her patients to teach
her readers how to combine a life of service with a life of giving and
receiving blessings, a combination that avoids common problems such as
burnout and self-sacrifice. One tells of a widow who learned to cherish
her husband's memory with love instead of with pain. Another tells of a
little boy who recognized that it's easier to love just a few toys than
many. She also includes personal stories of her grandfather, who
showered her world with his mystical beliefs.
"Wisdom," says Remen, "lies in engaging the life you
have been given as fully and courageously as possible and not letting go
until you find the unknown blessing that is in everything."