It Happened in Walmart
January 24, 2016
Jennifer Hagler Photography
By Laura DiFatta
It was two weeks before Christmas and I woke up in a bad mood. I was grumpy, sullen and tired and felt overwhelmed by my “things to do” list. Part of my things to do included a visit to Walmart. I know, I know, we are blessed to have the mega one-stop-shopping opportunity. But that same blessing, turned upside down a long list combined with Walmart can feel overwhelming and daunting, at least to me. The upside to shopping at Walmart that day, I thought, was that it is the kind of place that a person can be “alone in a crowd.” That worked for me seeing as I really just wanted to be alone. So, as I was driving and brooding over having to go there, what I can describe only as a small voice from deep within me said, “Don’t you think I could be there, too? Don’t you think I can be useful in Walmart?” It was a nudge. An encouragement for me to look “up.” Hrrrmph. I silently (and somewhat reluctantly) prayed, “I guess so… God help me see as you see and be useful to you,” accompanied by a big sigh.
The first item on my list was makeup. This time, the makeup was not for me, but for a sweet teenage African-American for whom I was buying a Christmas gift. I knew she shares my appreciation for cosmetics, so I wanted to surprise her. But, I was out of my knowledge base because of her skin tone and her age. And the fact that I do not have a girl, so I don’t necessarily know what’s “in.” Fortunately, I happened upon a Walmart employee who was working on one of the makeup aisles. She had the same beautiful complexion of my young friend. I told her what I was looking for and she gave me some great suggestions. She then led me to a nearby display that had even more ideas for teenage girl gifts! She helped me so willingly and with such enthusiasm, that my mood began to thaw. She told me, “If there is anything else you need— no matter where you are in the store— you find me and I will help you.” I was amazed! She even thanked me and said how good I was to do this, and I said “I assure you, anything good in me is not me, but Christ in me.” She said excitedly, “I’m a believer, too!” We talked for several minutes about our faith, encouraging each other and we hugged before we parted ways. Before I left her, I said, “Are you an angel? Because you sure do seem like one.” She just smiled and shrugged her shoulders. I walked away wondering, “Well, was she?”
My next stop was two aisles over in the toy section where I looked for an angel tree gift for a baby. The only other person on that aisle with me was an older African American woman. I spoke to her as I passed her with my cart and we exchanged pleasantries. Then we both returned to shopping. But in a couple of minutes, she said out loud, “I just don’t think I’m going to celebrate Christmas this year. I just don’t think I can!” I quickly looked around and, yes, I was still the only other person on the aisle with her and so I said, “I’m so sorry to hear that. Do you mind telling me what is wrong?” She began to cry and she said that just two weeks before, her beloved mother had passed away and she just could not bear the sorrow she felt. She was very low on hope and that feeling was intensified because of the holidays. I asked her if I could give her a hug and she said yes. And then I asked her if I could pray for her. She held onto me as I prayed for her hope and her strength and her comfort as she grieved the loss of her mother. And I prayed that God would remind her of His love and care for her and of His Presence with her and that Jesus is our Rescuer and that He empathizes with us even as He intercedes for us.
I am not exaggerating when I say, I opened my eyes from praying and–at the maximum–1 foot to my left was a young African American man looking intently at me. He said nothing and I immediately knew. He’d been drawn to the light. I said, “And you need this hope too don’t you?” He nodded. I said, “Because you’ve experienced pain. You know what it means to be hurt and you need hope.” He nodded. As I began to speak the Word of God, he closed his eyes, took hold of my left arm (my right arm was around Josephine’s shoulders) and I said, “OK.” And we went— the three of us: Josephine, Chris and me—to the throne of God in prayer. God had a message of redemption and hope and purpose for these two precious ones; A life and eternity changing message found only through His Son Jesus Christ. I do not know where they stood in regard to their relationship with Christ, but I do know that they needed and were accepting of True Hope. I literally felt like we were on holy ground. Chris said, “thank you,” and smiled and Josephine, exclaimed, “I’m leaving here and I’m getting outside in this bright day and raking my yard and praising God,” she turned around and walked right out of Walmart with a fresh perspective.
The rest of my Walmart experience felt like a dream. Yes, there is such a thing as a spiritual high. Around the men’s socks, I even had two women say, “Look at your face. You are glowing!” I assure you, I had not left my house “glowing” that morning. I had been in the Presence of God. In Walmart.
This week, God has been layering this verse to me: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) I am reminded that: 1) God is the treasure, it is by His grace that He gives us His Spirit by our faith in Christ’s redemption work on our behalf! I might be a jar of clay, but what I hold—what every believer holds is a treasure beyond compare! 2) His Spirit is at work and we get to be a part of it! 3) We really just need to be willing and confident in Him (mindful that I am, after all the clay,) not focused on our adequacy or inadequacy. 4) He has given believers in Christ an incomparable treasure that is meant to be shared! 5) His Word truly is active, alive and powerful. 6) People need hope and are literally drawn to the Light! (ex: Josephine and Chris.) 7) He writes the script. Case in point: That day, I had my day mapped out. He guided my steps to accomplish His Will.
The overarching point that I am trying to make is this: God is working all around and in and through us! He is drawing people to Himself. And He intends for us to be a part of sharing the treasure He is! Just think if every single person who professed faith in Christ, took sharing Him seriously, confident in His provision to do so?! Do you think this world would be different? I’m guessing Yes!
You don’t have to be super-spiritual or an extrovert to share Hope. He will take the offering of our efforts and multiply them more than we can ask or imagine. I do know this: the closer we get to God, the more we are willing to share Him with others and the more confident we are in doing so.
I don’t know what that time with Josephine and Chris did for them, but I hope and pray that when they lie down at night and reflect, or when they face challenges, or when they are given the opportunity to encourage someone else, they are reminded of what happened on that day near Christmas in Walmart and they will rejoice!