A fascinating question… I think there are 2 issues at hand when it comes to dealing with others as concerns compassion, and to add a tad more complexity to the mix, there is the issue of differences in the type/level of compassion appropriate to the situation.
First, coming at this with a technical pov… the issues are scalabiliy, and sustainability…. followed by types/levels.
On a scalability pov, I dont think its possible, nor healthy to be fully “on” with everyone we meet. Certainly when I have the minister hat on, its fully engaged for the most part, but when I’ve got the tech dude hat on, much less so. There is a time and place for downtime, and being few of us can retreat to the wilderness, we retreat inwardly, despite appearance wise being very much in the world. I guess the challenge is to develop the discernment needed to come back up at the right times… Almost makes me wonder if the wilderness deal is really where its at.
The other thing is sustainability. Its reasonably easy to jump in when needed if one can plan around it. Its a ton different when its something like long term chronic illness. In the example portrayed, there is no time duration presented.., if the person was going to die in a car crash in 3 weeks, full bore commitment is a non issue, it would likely be easy for nearly anyone. If its going to be 10 years where someone is gravely ill for much of the time, thats another deal entirely.
And that brings us back to the issue of intensity… the example portrays an extreme case, knowing when a person is going to die, and our response. The thing is, life is never clear cut. Is it the person we ended up brushing off on the way to a meeting? Or is it the person who seemed like they might want to talk, but needed encouragement to do so, and we were to slow to pick on it, and they walked away instead? Or is it the staff member at church who seems to have it all together, at least on the outside? And then our responses, is it overt, is it fixit-fast, or is it just being there, or even just being available… Discernment is never cut and dried….
Whether in ministry, or tech, on the way to a meeting, or just hanging out, we should never blow others off, or disregard their feelings, but always try to be compassionate, and concerned. Thats really the bigger picture we need. The discernment, and the how part may come in time, but taking the first steps is perhaps the biggest step one can make… an error at an attempt is 1000000 times better than an intentional error to ignore someone in need.