Walmart, I love their prices but loath the crowds. Unless I am walking through the door at 7:00 a.m. when it first opens, I always find myself in a grumpy, bothered mood!
Yesterday I had to go to Walmart right about the time a lot of us are getting off of work and trying to taking care those items on our to do list. As usual, the parking lot was full and I found myself wrinkling up my nose, bothered to say the least.
As I ran up and down the aisles looking for a vinyl tablecloth, yes I did say vinyl; the grandkids were coming over for an evening of creative cooking, games and fun, I kept thinking to myself that from the looks of the masses of people there that the check-out lines were going to be painstakingly long (obviously I had left my patience in my car!).
Eyeing up each cashier, I got in the line that I thought looked like it was moving somewhat fast. I turned around to the woman behind me and said, “I sure wish they had self-checkout counters, but at least there is only three people ahead of us here”, to which she agreed.
It was just then our line came to a stop. The young woman that was being waited on had a disappointed look on her face. I heard her say, “Are you sure” to the cashier who tried to swipe her credit card again, “I’m sure”, he responded with a nod. She started putting some of things in her cart back on the counter, among them were boxes of Valentine cards and heart shaped boxes of candy. The toddler that was with her began to whine.
As she started to walk away, the man that was directly behind her in line said, “Hey ma’am, hold on”. He then pulled out his credit card and paid for the Valentine cards, the heart shaped boxes of candy and the other items she was leaving behind. “Here you go” was all he said as he went about the rest of his business.
The look on her face was priceless. She looked uncertain at first, then shocked and incredibly moved. “Thank you so much”, she said to him. “No problem”, was his only reply.
As she walked out of the store with all her bags and a quiet little toddler, I felt a rush of both joy filled amazement and awe. I had just encountered an act of gratuitous love, free and self-giving with no strings attached, right in my crowded neighborhood Walmart. Wow!
As I started to replay what I had just witnessed in my mind, I began to think that this is how God loves us. He loves us gratuitously and passionately, as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us in his Lenten Message for 2013 this past week when he spoke of the relationship between faith and charity.
I observed that “being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction…Since God has first loved us, love is now longer a mere ‘command’; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us”. 1
Faith becomes active through love….Through faith we enter into friendship with the Lord, through charity this friendship is lived and cultivated. 2
I thank God for allowing me to witness this act of love for many reasons, but for one thing, it helped make the Holy Father’s message much more personal and meaningful for me as I approach Ash Wednesday.
God bless the man who said “yes” to the Lord in Walmart and God bless all of you.
Notes 1 and 2 Message of His Holiness Benedic XVI for Lent 2013