Another Sunday Night at Wal-Mart

It was another Sunday night trip
To Wal-Mart
A once-a-week excursion
Often dreaded
Especially this time of year
Less than two weeks before Christmas
So many people
Aisles filled with shoppers
Some with lists
Some without
Some with absolutely no clue
What it was they wanted to buy
As for me
I had my grocery list
My coupons
And a simple prayer
God, please let me get in
And get out
In less than an hour

Luckily I was able to avoid the most popular areas
Not too many people roam the frozen food section for presents
The pharmacy aisles were a different story
I’m not sure who thought this would be a good place
To put two aisles of cologne
But getting to the mouthwash was an excursion
Had to leave the cart at the end of the aisle
Mouthwash and cologne
Hopefully no one will mix the two
Thankfully didn’t lose too much time here

After only twenty minutes in
I found myself at the bottom of the list
Half way in shock
I found myself checking off each item
I was overcome with true joy
Of course this was short lived
Reality sank in once I arrived at the front of the store
And realized there were only five lines open
And in each one
At least ten people stood patiently waiting
Of course patiently only applies
If the meaning of the word ranges from
Either talking on your cell phone
To trying to wrangle five young children
In a very confined space

One could actually write a book
Or at least a short story
About what we do
While waiting in line at Wal-Mart
There are always the different magazines
You know the ones
The ones you often look at
Sometimes pull off of the rack
To grab a quick glance at
But very seldom
Actually buy
Then of course
There are all the “necessary” items
Ranging from super glue to duct tape
And almost anything in-between
I do have to admit
I did read a short article about a holiday diet plan
But I spent most of my time
As I usually do
Watching the others in line

There was a couple in front of me
A father
A mother
And their daughter
I could only presume this however
Since they all spoke in Spanish
Still I am pretty sure this was the case
You don’t have to speak the language
To understand certain looks
Or vocal tones
I imagine there were a few occasions where
“Sit back down’
And
“Put that back”
Came into play
But for the most part
The little girl
Who couldn’t have been four years old
Behaved quite well

While they were checking out
I paid close attention to the father
He would pick up one of the toys
They had placed in their basket
Hand it to the cashier and quietly ask her
“How Much?”
She would scan the item
Then hand it back to him
He then would place the item on the empty cashier stand
That stood behind him
This happened twice

The third time this happened
There was a small doll
The father handed it to the cashier
As he was about to place the doll with the other toys
The mother stepped up and removed a couple of the food items
The ones the cashier had already rang up
Placed in a bag
And the father had placed in their cart

The cashier voided out the items
One by one
And rang the doll up instead

I could actually hear one of the people behind me
Say in a muffled voice
“Come on folks”
I guess it does come down to priorities
How we spend our time
As well as our money

The father paid the cashier
In cash
Counting out singles
And change in the end
And the small family started to leave

You have to understand
I am not a person of means
Wealth
Or fame
I am however a person
Who sometimes is given a chance
Even if it is a small one
To sometimes make a difference
I quickly reached over
Picked up the items of food
That the couple had set aside
And asked the cashier if she could ring them up

There was a look in her eyes
She quickly understood
The magic of this moment
She walked over to the mother and father
Came back
Rang up the items
And gave them to them
In a nice little plastic bag

I have to admit
My Spanish is extremely rusty
But a hug and a thank you
Is the same in any language
And in that moment
Once again
I found the spirit of this season

No
I may not be a person
Of means, wealth, or fame
But tonight
This thirteenth night of December
I have again been blessed
In a way
Few can begin to imagine

Merry Christmas to all
And to all
A good night

Ed Roberts 12/13/09
author of Pulitzer-nominated book
Whispers, Tears, Prayers and Hope