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Three caring roles

Assuming a person is compassionate about someone else’s situation in life and therefore wants to care for that individual, what roles are open to the first? So far I have identified three roles. One is occupational; some workers who are compassionate about other people make a living, at least in significant part, by caring for them, often done as a professional calling (e.g., clergy, physicians, social workers). Another role, which is available outside work, is caring for other people as a personal obligation. Here the caring individual, fired by compassion, feels a moral duty to care for another person or class of people. Personal caring, as I explain more fully in the next paragraph, is predominantly disagreeable (a non-work obligation); it cannot be considered leisure. Rather it is the lot of those who, though they would rather be doing something else, find themselves caring, as an example, for an ailing relative or close friend or feel morally pressured to aid the needy at home or abroad.

Leisure caring, our third role and the one most central to this book, refers to people engaged in un-coerced compassionate activity during free time, activity they want to do and, in either a satisfying or a fulfilling way (or both), use their abilities and resources to succeed at doing (the general definition of leisure inherent in this statement is considered more fully in Stebbins 2012). Leisure caring is distinguished from its occupational and personal counterparts by, among other qualities, the fact that it alone is executed in free time. Still leisure caring is certainly capable of generating obligations. Be that as it may serious leisure research has demonstrated through several studies (Stebbins 2000a) that, because obligations here are agreeable, they are defined by committed participants as minor, as “minimal.” Such obligations are real, nonetheless, even while the powerful rewards of the activity significantly outweigh them and the participant has the option to quit the activity at a convenient point in the near future. More precisely serious leisure has often been found to contain some flexible obligation, or a relative freedom to honor commitments. This condition is generally missing in occupational caring and personal obligation.

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