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Caring as popular volunteering

Caring has been defined as the process of assuming personal responsibility for others’ welfare, accomplished by acknowledging their needs and acting responsively toward them (Smith, Stebbins, and Dover 2006:34). Although, in this chapter, discussion will center exclusively on social caring, the caring of other people, note that Oliner and Oliner (1995) broadly define the process to include both people and the natural environment. They hold further that caring is a social process; it includes both “attaching” processes (bonding, empathizing, learning caring norms, assuming personal responsibility) and “including” processes (diversifying one’s interaction to include those unlike oneself, networking, resolving conflict and linking the local with the global). According to Wuthnow (1991) caring is motivated, in substantial part, by compassion, or the sympathy generated by feeling another person’s suffering, which leads to an inclination to show mercy for or give aid to - care for - that person.

Earlier (Stebbins 2008) I examined the relationship of caring and compassion as expressed during free time in leisure activities. This, to my knowledge, had never been done, with the result that many contextual and motivational properties unique to leisure had been overlooked, and consequently, were unavailable to both the theoretical and the practical sides of the sociology and psychology of compassion. That article attempted to demonstrate that such oversight has denied this field some useful conceptual tools.

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