On any given day Walmart is a bustling hub for shoppers, and especially on Saturdays. But the oil in the van needs to be changed. The mechanic behind the counter squints at the clock and tells us it will be at least an hour. Something about another employee on his break and the timing of these things. I don’t really listen to the whole conversation. The most important part of it has already been spoken. I have one hour to wander the store.
I’m here because my favorite grocery app says cucumbers are on sale. It’s an important note because we love cucumbers, but in the winter they don’t often love my budget. Its also nice to wander aisles by myself. It only takes two aisles for the best husband to find a bench and pull out his book. He’s doing what he loves and today I am more than content to wander alone.
The air is filled with a heavenly smell, something between roasted chicken and cheese. I’m guessing its coming from the sample booth, judging by the size of the crowd at the end of the dairy section. Buggy wheels squeak, children cry, and the loud speaker spits out a static easy listening track. Walmart at its finest. I need coconut milk, but I can’t seem to find any in the usual place, so I start the game of “Maybe it’s in with the…” Navigating the coffee and tea aisle I peruse the cans of evaporated milk, but no coconut.
I hear him before I see him. He’s to my left, holding a plastic carry basket and choosing tea. Muttering to himself as he contemplates the selection, he makes me smile a little. That’s what I do, list off the names of things until I come to the one I want. Only I do it in my head. I try not to stare at the shock of white hair and a well worn coat barely concealing a fragile frame with stooped shoulders.
He moves closer to where I’m standing and when I offer an encouraging smile its returned by a wide, almost toothless grin. A thin stream of drool escapes the corner of his mouth and plummets down a poorly shaven chin. He nods, the smile having reached all the way to his eyes and returns to his tea selection. His shaking hands make it difficult.
The aisle is crowded. Several buggies and shoppers past between us before I can turn to offer my help, but the woman who’d been deciding on coffee whiteners steps in. I watch from the end of the shelves as she listens, and then hands him a box. He shuffles to the post with the price finder, but his shaking means the machine can’t read the bar code. Again, I head up the aisle to help, but before I can reach him, another shopper holds his hand. Steady’s him. It’s the loveliest thing I’ve seen in a long time. Five minutes of time, a smile, some help, a steadying hand. We’re walking these aisles and weaving a tapestry of community that may only last a moment, but the threads of kindness, grace and love reach far beyond these block walls.
There’s that beautiful grin again. He’s visibly grateful for the help, and the price that flashes on the display. He brushes past me for the last time with a smile and a nod. We are two people, grateful for good. Thankful for kindness, and holding on to threads of hope.
It’s not just a Saturday in Walmart. It’s all of us, everywhere. Spinning threads of light, grace, and peace, because of the one that lives in us. I want to walk into the everyday, weaving patchwork communities of love because of the one who loves. Looking for His goodness, listening for His heart.
He has told you, O man, what is good;And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? Micha 6:7-9