All the lonely people. Where do they all come from? Wed, Jul 22, 2009.
"All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
All the lonely people, where do they all belong? "
See here for full lyrics of the Beatles song. (Music/video here.)
There's a related article called "The Invisible Visitor" in the July 2009 issue of the Friend magazine, which also appears in the July 2009 Liahona.
07/22/2009. 1169. Spanish DVD at laundromat.
Last night I had an epiphany.
As I was leaving the laundromat an Hispanic young adult or teenager was standing near the door saying to no one in particular how cold it was outside. He wasn't talking directly at me, but I was the only one in earshot, so I engaged him in conversation on my way to my car. He ended up following me and asked things about my car, and so we talked about it while I was rearranging the boxes of books on the back seat so as to get all my laundry inside.
He was the same guy who had sat upon my folding table while I was taking clothes out of the dryer. I was kind of annoyed that he did that, but politely addressed him saying "Amigo.... that's my table that I'm using" and he apologized and quickly got down. His family was kind of boisterous, acting as typical teenagers, as the mom was doing laundry.
Outside, I got the definite impression that my earlier gentleness in response to his social faux paus at the folding table had influenced him in a way that he could somewhat trust me. And he also seemed eager or hungry for social interaction outside of his family. I thought of how one's family is supposed to be nice to you, but it is also important to receive kindness from others who don't "have to" be nice to you.
Some readers of this blog think that my interactions with people are impositions, when in fact it is the opposite. For many, a gift of a video, magazine or book is just the icing on the cake of the kindness of taking time to acknowledge someone's existence and treat them with a little human kindness. Again, a cynic may think I'm taking advantage of such people's loneliness.
But I've been on the other side. I was once a stranger in a strange land, sticking out like a sore thumb, during my mission in Ecuador. Common courtesies, people even just acknowledging our existence, even when they weren't interested in the missionary message, meant a lot.
I didn't want to get preachy there in the parking lot, and reading material in Spanish is not as in demand as other languages, since so many Spanish language cable and satellite channels are avaialble, and books and magazines are available at the many Mexican grocery stores in town.
So I asked if he had a DVD player, and he said he did. I then offered him a free DVD from church, and he agreed to receive it, so I grabbed a copy of the "Our Heavenly Father's Plan" DVD from one of the boxes in the back seat, and presented it to him. He asked which church, and I told him the name of the church, and pointed out the list of local chapels that I put in the clamshell.
Now back to the epiphany. This is one of the reasons why offering immigrants material has been successful. I'm not focused on converting people, or trying to get a committment out of them to investigate or visit church. I'm taking time to acknowledge people's existence by interacting with them. Then, giving them the opportunity to agree or decline to receive material before actually handing it to them, is a continuance of that respect.
I've very likely missed many opportunities where further invitations could have been made to visit church or receive the missionaries. But the counter-balance is that this method of interaction ends up planting many more seeds with people who will be ready later on.