Eric Gre­it­ens is the author of The Heart and the Fist: The Edu­ca­tion of a Human­i­tar­i­an, the Mak­ing of a Navy SEAL. He has been blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings Author Blog.

In Tuesday’s post, I talked about how sto­ries give us strength in try­ing times. Sto­ries also have the pow­er to repair and trans­form the read­er and the writer.

The Jew­ish word tzedakah is usu­al­ly trans­lat­ed as char­i­ty, but the word actu­al­ly has a root that is clos­er to jus­tice,” and in this sense, tzedakah is under­stood not as some­thing that is extra, but as some­thing that is required. The allied Jew­ish con­cept of Gemi­lut Chasadim refers to the spir­it in which the high­est form of tzedakah is giv­en, a spir­it of all-lov­ing kind­ness. We are required not only to repair the world and make it just, but we do this work best when we act with the spir­it of loving-kindness.

We often live today with an impov­er­ished moral vocab­u­lary that lim­its our think­ing about char­i­ty to ques­tions about what we might do with our spare mon­ey, and our think­ing about com­pas­sion to ques­tions of what we might do with our spare time. If we give the resources of our time, our wis­dom, and our wealth in the right way and at the right time, this can save lives. But there is a deep­er pow­er still. If we give in the spir­it of lov­ing-kind­ness prac­ticed from one per­son to anoth­er, then we have tapped into an over­whelm­ing pow­er that can change our own lives just as we con­tribute ser­vice to others.

As a writer, the process of writ­ing has allowed me to share sto­ries of Marines hunt­ing al Qae­da ter­ror­ists in Iraq and nuns who fed the des­ti­tute in Moth­er Teresa’s homes for the dying in India. Being able to relive these moments has enabled me to see how I’ve devel­oped over the years. I’ve also had many read­ers tell me that the book has impact­ed them. Many have told me that they’ve been inspired to serve. And that, for me, is the most reward­ing thing a writer can hear.

Eric Greitens’s newest book, The Heart and the Fist, is now available.