Souls at leisure.

I deeply appreciate the work of Josef Pieper. He was a Catholic theologian and philosopher who defined leisure as when our soul is at rest in his book Leisure: The Basis of Culture.

Many of us wouldn’t associate the idea of souls with the word leisure. To many of us, leisure means recreation, activity, or maybe even just anything that isn’t work. But I think at the root of it, leisure has more to do with a sense of being than a sense of doing.

So what do our souls have to do with leisure? Pieper says that, “Leisure, then, as a condition of the soul… an inner absence of preoccupation, a calm, an ability to let things go, to be quiet… Leisure is a form of that stillness that is necessary for preparation for accepting reality… Leisure is the disposition of receptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion – in the real.” (Pieper, p. 50, 1948) He goes on to write that worship is a crucial factor in getting to this point, and this is important, but today I’d just like to focus on what he constitutes as leisure.

At the drop-in, I see that folks experience this feeling of leisure within our walls. We offer a space that is welcoming, available and steady, there for people when they need it. At our corner in Lowertown, there is a place where people can always find rest.

For those who are unhoused, they are in constant survival mode, operating in bodies that can be full of stress whether walking the streets or sleeping in shelters. Many are kicked out of public spaces simply for being there. Many can’t access a place to sit and be without paying to stay.

To many in our community, our drop-in is a place where they can find a moment of peace in lives full of stress; often, it is stress that poverty demands of one to survive. For a moment in their day, they may feel an “…absence of preoccupation, a calm, an ability to let things go, to be quiet…”, somewhere where they don’t need to choose between fight or flight.

And that’s why what we do is so much deeper than what meets the eye: we offer availability, safety, and presence at no cost. On a recent community survey we did, when asked what people liked about CCM, one reply stated: “Without people like CCM, we just wouldn’t have a place to go.”

To me, souls being at leisure at our drop-in looks like having the courage to make a new friend. To sit and rest. To do a puzzle, take time to sit and have a coffee, or play a round of cards. To ask for what you may need or receive a word of encouragement. To laugh with a stranger. To freely be oneself.

By no means am I trying to glamourize the hardships that our friends at the drop-in face. But the relief of poverty requires a holistic approach, and social exclusion and isolation are prominent issues that the majority of our community face. Though these issues are often invisible, they require a tangible response. 

The sense of community at CCM plays a small role in helping to alleviate social isolation by providing a safe, judgement free space for connection. A space for our souls to rest, for souls to be at leisure. Because don’t we all need a little more of that in our lives?

– Jenna Williams