Today was stake conference, and through a series of events, I ended up listening in the foyer. It was an enlightening experience. I encountered a whole subculture those in the chapel most likely didn't know existed. A few mentally challenged individuals roved the halls filled with nursing mothers, rebellious chatty teen girls, coughing old men, and jubilant little kids running away from their mothers.
Perhaps the most interesting event was to watch the interaction or lack thereof with a homeless man who wandered the halls with a large hard-sided suitcase. One man spoke with him, some nervously smiled, some turned away, most just ignored him. I thought it was ironic that a counselor in the stake presidency was speaking about what it means to be Christian as many found it hard to show Christ-like love to this man.
I examined my own sentiments. Through my mind ran the name of a Facebook group I follow called "Empathy First." What level of empathy did I have toward this man? Would I be a doer of the word and not just a hearer? I admit that I felt a bit uncomfortable. I thought about the two empty bedrooms in my home. Thoughts then went to my wife and daughter. Would it be safe to invite him there? For a while, I did nothing - just observed.
As he walked around the corner out of sight, I finally found the courage to follow after him and speak with him. He said he was waiting to talk with one of the bishops who had helped him before. We spoke briefly. I gave him the little money I had in my wallet and walked away, feeling some level of comfort that he would likely receive additional help from the bishop.
To a large degree, I failed him, but I'm grateful to have at least minimally acted upon my desire to help this man. Next time I'll do better.