The Hidden Gifts of Helping

“Everyone stumbles on hard times. After all, no one gets out of life alive. Today, even those who had considered themselves protected from hardship are being touched and their lives changed by volatile economic markets, job uncertainty, and the increasing isolation and loneliness of modern life.”

—From the Introduction

Research has revealed that when we show concern for others—empathizing with a friend who has lost a loved one, mowing the lawn for an elderly neighbor, or volunteering to mentor a school-aged child—we improve our own health and well-being and embrace and give voice to our deeper identity and dignity as human beings.

In this moving book, Stephen G. Post helps us discover how we can make “helping” a lifetime activity. The Hidden Gifts of Helping explores the very personal story of Post and his family’s difficult move and their experience with the healing power of helping others, as well as his passion about how this simple activity—expressed in an infinite number of small or large ways—can help you survive and thrive despite the expected and unexpected challenges life presents.

Post’s story is intertwined with supporting scientific research and spiritual understanding. This book can become your companion and guide to the power of giving, forgiving, and compassion in hard times.

The Hidden Gifts of Helping will leave you with the unshakable feeling that the world can be a good place if we act to make it so.


“We can be anywhere, so long as we are helping others and caring for them. This is probably the one source of stability in our lives that we can truly depend on, and so in the end we are never really out of place.”

—Stephen G. Post

In The Hidden Gifts of Helping, Stephen Post… sums up his argument by quoting the Dalai Lama: ?Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. (p. 52). Post supports this claim with the help of rigorous scientific evidence, wisdom drawn from a variety of philosophical and religious traditions, and the recent personal experience of overcoming the trials of being uprooted through the strategy of generous giving to others. Although not sociological in its orientation or approach, sociologists interested in the relationship between altruism, social capital, and community will find much of interest in this popular work (recently a Wall Street Journal bestseller in philosophy).

—Matthew T. Lee, American Sociological Association

Stephen Post begins with his move after twenty years from Cleveland, Ohio. Now in his fifties, he is relocating with his family to Stony Brook, N.Y., after losing his job. Despite the upset and worry, rather than fall into self-pity, he knows the family must make a choice, “As my family and I made our transition to a new life in a new community, we realized that our choice was clear: giver’s glow or doubter’s darkness.”

“Life can be what we envision it to be, but it is not always what we expect.”

He speaks honestly from his own experience, taking along readers who can find similar feelings in their own life. Post goes beyond a personal sharing to substantiate his beliefs from his extensive professional research that blends seamlessly into the book, giving it increased credibility.

By helping others, he tells readers, we find many gifts: the giver’s glow; connection with the neediest; deep happiness; compassion and unlimited love; and ultimately, the gift of hope found not through seeking, but ultimately found nonetheless.

This book encourages that gift of hope, offering readers a new perspective on difficult times, and a way to discover the power they possess to get through these times, as well as to find more meaning every day of their lives.

—Angie Mangino, San Francisco Book Review

Post (preventive medicine; director, Ctr. for Medical Humanities, Stony Brook Univ.), president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, recommends, in his latest book, selflessness for selfish reasons—that is, he extols the health benefits of altruism not just for the receiver, but for the giver as well. Giving, claims Post, extends life span, relieves stress, improves mental health, and helps the heart. Post’s work is a welcome antidote to the contracted thinking of a recession and should be welcomed by church groups and charitable organizations as well as Christian readers. Copyright 2011 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal January 2011

Post (When Good Things Happen to Good People), president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, pens a hopeful text for hopeless times. His own job loss forced him and his family to relocate in 2008, and he writes poignantly of what he’s personally lived through. No stranger to the emotional and spiritual difficulties that accompany any major life change, the author shares intimately how he put into practice the biblical principle of ‘giving unto others’ as he worked through his own grief, sorrow, and loss during the transition that uprooted his family. The lessons Post learned make up this practical resource that urges purposeful giving, even while feeling the stings of disappointment and hardship. Post’s work is more than a feel-good read. It’s today’s handbook for survival.

Publishers Weekly January 2011

It has become clear that one’s attitudes and one’s actions contribute greatly to how one experiences difficult times, whether it is a cross-country move, a surgery, the death in one’s circle of friends/family, or a loss of a job (just to name a few possibilities). When our focus is totally placed on our own self, moving forward in life becomes very difficult. If, however, we change our focus outwardly then positive things can and often do happen. That doesn’t mean that positive thinking or even positive action will cure all that ails you, but it does make a difference in how we engage the world that we know, especially during difficult times. Conversations such as these must take into account the deep resources to be found in our faith traditions, most of which call on the individual to look outward to the needs of the other and the needs of the community, especially at those times when we’re tempted to close in on ourselves….

Post has written a very good book that needs to be read by a people who have become attracted by an ultimately destructive ideology of selfishness. Committing ourselves to the principle that “God helps those who help themselves” will not bring us happiness or hope, but committing ourselves to living lives rooted in “unlimited love” can transform our lives. This is the kind of self-help book, I can embrace – one that recognizes that we will find our happiness and fulfillment by being in relationship with others. It is also a principle that is deeply rooted in our faith traditions. This is, then, a book well worth reading.

—Pastor Bob Cornwall (more)

Stephen G. Post is professor of preventive medicine and director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University. He is president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, established in 2001 with support of the philanthropist John Templeton and the Templeton Foundation. Post is the author of several books including Why Good Things Happen to Good People.

In this new uplifting work, the author uses his family’s move from Ohio to their new home in New York as a way of illustrating the many ways in which transition, change, and mystery can signal a breakthrough to new possibilities. Post also sees the book as an exploration of the many benefits of helping others or, as he puts it, “a true companion and guide to the power of giving, forgiving, and compassion in hard times.”

After living in Cleveland for 20 years, the author found it hard to adjust to a new place and unfamiliar people: he is overwhelmed by a sense of displacement and loss. But in the long term he learns that the ties of affection, good neighbors, and love itself are what constitute happiness. Post recovers his equilibrium by helping others. In a survey by the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, he discovers that people reap many rewards from doing good including greater longevity, lower rates of heart disease, improved mental and emotional health, and relief of stress and negative emotions. Volunteers who regularly serve others talk of a “helper’s high” that comes with moving beyond self and putting others first. Post quotes John Templeton: “Every act of helping is a way of saying yes to life.”

The challenge of service is to discover your hidden gift and then to give to those who need it most. It could be serving food to the homeless, or supporting a shelter for abused women, or regularly visiting shut-ins. Post believes that happiness arises from four elements that create a spiritual foundation: loving others, the presence of moral integrity, the ability to enjoy thankful simplicity, and staying true to your higher purpose. The author concludes with a strong affirmation of the art of hanging on to hope in these hard times:

“Hope is not simply the capacity to be optimistic; it is so much bigger than that. Hope leads us into the future with a deep trust that something good will come. It helps us keep going when we stumble, and gives us a vision to guide us in the face of adversity.”

—Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat,

“Stephen Post… has written a deeply moving and comforting book about the pain and the healing of being uprooted. In the face of the deeply troubling post-2008 world, Post has written a courageous and honest book about his own experience of being a ‘castaway’ and reaching shore safely by trying to rescue others, not himself…. It is wise and profoundly healing.”

—George E. Vaillant MD, professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; senior fellow, Center for Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania; and author, Aging Well

“I hereby add my voice to the much deserved praise of Stephen G. Post’s book on the healing power of love. It is a lasting contribution to the humanities in medicine.”

—Richard Selzer, MD, Yale University School of Medicine

“In this inspiring book, Stephen Post convincingly shows how helping others leads to win-win situations: not only does benevolence enhance others’ well-being… but, as a bonus, it also contributes significantly to our own physical and mental well-being.”

—Matthieu Ricard, Buddhist monk, humanitarian, and scientist, and author, Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill

“Stephen Post’s new book is an engaging spiritually wise reflection on the challenge of moving from one place and one job to another. He draws on his expertise in the scientific research on helping, loving, religion and altruism as he constructs a moving personal narrative with a universal message.”

—Sydney Callahan, Ph.D., nationally syndicated columnist for Commonweal Magazine; licensed psychologist; and author, Created for Joy: A Christian View of Suffering

“America needs this timely, persuasive and morally refreshing call to help our neighbors. Once again, Stephen Post offers us the gift of good news that volunteerism, altruism and philanthropy are forms of therapy for our own souls.”

—Rev. Dr. Robert M. Franklin, president, Morehouse College

“For over two decades, Stephen Post has produced the most impressive body of work cogently arguing for love’s central role at the interface of science, medicine and spirituality. Most often his books and papers present strong objective arguments, as befits a respected academic, that loving others makes perfect biological, medical, psychological and social sense. Here in this wonderful new book, he makes the argument ‘by acquaintance.’ An unsettling separation from a place of attachment and solace becomes an occasion of grace in that he and his family are called to find newly invigorated attachments. They do so with the help of inspiring recollections and encounters with heroes present and past who themselves have found the healing grace of loving others. Dr Post has given us a heartfelt gift—a modern adventure story steeped in the old wisdom of what it takes to lead a good and healthy life.”

—Gregory L. Fricchione, MD, professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and director of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital

“In reflecting on his life’s challenges and transitions, Stephen Post weds solid science with practical wisdom, and conveys the resulting truths with inspiring life stories. With graceful prose he points to way to human flourishing—through self-giving love.”

—David G. Myers, professor of psychology education, Hope College and author, A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists: Musings on Why God is Good and Faith isn’t Evil

“Stephen Post has long championed the simple but sublime truth that by helping others we help ourselves. He has documented this cardinal principle of positive psychology in a long series of authoritative volumes and research projects, including a major project on happiness that he helped lead over the past five years at Emory. In this engaging new volume, Post combines touching (auto)biography, philosophical reflection, and scientific findings into a compelling narrative on how and why love of God, neighbor, and self converge. This is a book to be read in an evening and savored for a lifetime.”

—John Witte, director and distinguished professor, Center for Law and Religion, Emory University

“In an elegant and thoughtful reflection on his family’s move from their settled life in Ohio to their new home in New York, Stephen Post uncovers ‘hidden gifts’ among life-changing challenges. As one of America’s most knowledgeable philosophers and scholars of the interrelated roles of altruism, love and compassion in spiritual and physical wellness, Dr. Post brings years of scientific inquiry into critical dialogue with his own family crisis of transition, change and adaptation. The result is an educational and inspirational chronicle that grounds the foundational belief that helping others does heal and transform human life. The Hidden Gifts of Helping offers renewed meaning to the biblical maxim that ‘A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.’ (Proverbs 11:25)”

—The Rev. Dr. Walter J. Smith, S.J., Ph.D., president and CEO, HealthCare Chaplaincy


Media contact: Kelly Hughes

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