Caring encounter: a principle associated particularly with medieval Christianity, by which a community recognised the duty of care among its extended networks of family relationship and reciprocal obligation. Caritas is close to charity (meaning 2), except that:

(a) it is the expression of a humane and orderly culture and community, whereas charity has more the sense of an individual act; and

(b) it has no implication that the other person is in trouble or worse-off than you: it is the mutual bond of care between equals that holds the political economy together, giving it the stability it needs to cooperate with others, whether they are in trouble or not.


From a Commentary on Psalm 23,
by Myles Coverdale (1537)

. . . A sheep must live only by the help, defence, and diligence of his shepherd. As soon as it leaveth him, it is compassed about with all manner of peril, and must needs perish; for it cannot help itself. For why? It is a poor, weak, and innocent beast, that can neither feed nor guide itself, nor find the right way, nor keep itself against any unhappiness or misfortune; seeing this, that of nature it is fearful, flieth and goeth astray. And if it go but a little out of the way, and come from his shepherd, it is not possible for itself to find him again, but runneth ever farther and farther from him. And though it come to other shepherds and sheep, yet is it nothing helped therewith: for it knoweth not the voice of strange shepherds; therefore flieth it from them, and runneth so long astray, till the wolf ravish it, or till it perish in some other ways.

. . . This is the office of a good shepherd, that he doth not only provide for his sheep pasture, and other more things that belong thereto, but defendeth them also, that no harm chance unto them. Besides this, he taketh diligent heed that he lose none. If any go astray, he runneth after it, seeketh it, and fetcheth it again. As for such as be young, feeble, and sick, he dealeth gently with them, keepeth them, holdeth them up, and carrieth them, till they be old, strong, and whole.C27

“Care in the Community” has the intense concern and care intended in caritas. You might think, at first sight, that the sheep is in trouble—worse off than the shepherd—but that isn’t necessarily so (it may be enjoying its day out). What is clear in the story and its meaning is the shepherd’s intense care for the sheep or (by implication) for people around him, his neighbours.

Care in the community—in the neighbourhood and in the parish — has deep roots, as we see, for instance, in the medieval kinship community (Reciprocity and Cooperation > Balance).


Related entries:

Compassion, Gifts, Good Faith.

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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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