Luke 10:31-32: And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
The recent devastation by tornadoes in Joplin, MO has reminded me of one of the finest men I have ever known. He once taught a lesson in a 5th Sunday combined Priesthood/Relief Society meeting. He taught us that the bishop’s storehouse is not just the warehouse on the other side of town where people go to fill food orders. He emphasized that the concept of the bishop’s storehouse extends to the food storage in the homes of each individual member. In a time of disaster or emergency, the bishop can call upon members of the ward to share their food, warm clothing, blankets, and everything else they have with others. I left that meeting with a strong conviction, confirmed by the spirit, that the wheat, canned goods, bottled fruit, frozen vegetables, powdered milk, dry beans, camp stove with propane, and everything else in our basement was a resource of the church to be used for the building of Zion, and to be shared as necessary with my neighbors, LDS or not. A bishop’s storehouse exists wherever a latter-day saint practices provident living. A few years later, we lived near the Gulf coast of the United States, and our city took a direct hit from a hurricane. It wasn’t a devastating storm, but it did take down power lines and cause some minor flooding. We were lucky. Our power came back on in less than 24 hours. I distinctly remember sitting at the table, sweating in the Louisiana Summer heat, reading with a flashlight, when the lights suddenly came back on and the air conditioner came to life. It felt so good to go stand in front of the cool air, and to take a warm shower that night and go to sleep between clean sheets, in a cooled room.
For some reason, our neighbors weren’t so lucky. Our end of the street had electricity, but most of the people on our block had to wait over a week before they had power. No stove for cooking meals, no refrigerator, no freezer, no hot water for showers or laundry, no A/C. During this week, my life was pretty normal. I’d get up in the morning, shower and put on clean clothing, go to work, then go to the church and help with the work projects the church was organizing. At night I would come home to a nice meal in a pleasant, climate-controlled house, and maybe have a dish of ice cream while watching a game on TV before going to bed.
I did this for at least a week, and felt pretty good about myself. I was volunteering every day, didn’t that prove I was a good person? But every day I would drive past my neighbors, and I don’t think I thought of them and their situation at all. As I look back now, I am ashamed of myself, and wonder if that thoughtlessness is not perhaps my greatest sin against God. Within 3 minutes of my front door I could have found 20 families who would have loved to have a hot meal, a cold, iced drink, a shower, an hour in an air-conditioned room, a place to do some laundry, and a quiet, cool room for a fussy baby to take a nap. We could have used our storage and roasted the turkey which had been in the freezer for months. I think we also had two large hams, and enough burgers and bratwurst for at least two big dinners. It could have been a neighborhood party at the Browns, 24/7, but instead I chose my selfish, solitary existence and enjoyed my blessings all by my little self. Our hymn asks, rhetorically, “How can I see another’s lack and I not share?” Well, as it turns out, that is pretty easy to do for a schlub like me.
The missed opportunities make me sick to think about now. Instead of reflecting the love and light of Christ to those around me, I reinforced to them the idea that LDS people are standoffish and smug, and a little bit too good to associate with lesser mortals. This experience is one of my greatest regrets, and one for which I expect to be repenting for years to come.
Matthew 25:40-43: And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.