Jesus and the People of Wal Mart

There are plenty of places I’d rather shop than Wal Mart. Believe me.

From the moment I wander through the automatic doors to be greeted by an automatic greeter and lulled into automatic shopping mode, I feel guilty of crimes against humanity. All I can do is keep my head down and pray that God will forgive me for playing sidekick to an evil corporation intent upon running small businesses into the ground and taking over the world one smiley face at a time.

But the Evans family is on a budget just like everyone else, and economics often trump conviction…especially when Oreos are two for five dollars. So I’ve grown familiar with the various aisles, absently aware of the ebb and flow of the crowds, oblivious to the endless beeping of the barcode scanners. 

By the time I reach the check-out line, I’ve usually checked out of reality. Sometimes I neglect to place the divider between my groceries and my neighbor’s.  Sometimes I’m too tired to meet the cashier’s eye. Sometimes I forget there are other people around me.

But occasionally, a fellow shopper will capture my attention in such a way that forces me to confront the living, breathing mass of humanity that surrounds me.

Yesterday it was a small, white-haired woman whose thin frame was so severely bent over that she could barely reach the products on the middle shelves.  To adjust to this handicap, she kept her arms close to her chest like a squirrel and shuffled down the aisles with her head cocked to one side. I could see a wrinkled hand grasp the bar of the grocery cart now and then, but I couldn’t really see her face. 

Sitting in the cart among her groceries, was a little boy—probably seven or eight years old.  The boy had brown hair and freckles, and his shoes were untied. I thought I heard him humming as I passed. 

I looked around to see if there were any other adults accompanying the unlikely pair, but it soon became clear that the two were going it alone. Perhaps the boy was being raised by his grandmother. Or perhaps she was his great-grandmother. Whatever the case, it was obvious that their trip to Wal Mart required a lot more time—and a lot more courage—than my own.

The whole thing got me thinking about the people of Wal Mart. The popular Web site that bears the name is certainly funny, with its unbelievable pictures of strange-looking shoppers, submitted by readers who capture the images on their cell phones.  Living in a rural community, where mullets have yet to reach extinction, I confess to releasing more than a few knowing chuckles while visiting the site.

But as I contemplated the physical handicap that encumbered the old woman I spotted in the pasta aisle, the mental and economic handicaps that no doubt plague many of the victims of Peopleofwalmart.com, and my own emotional and spiritual handicaps that keep me from connecting with and loving my fellow human beings, I realized that the people of Wal Mart are not “them,” but “us.”  We’re all just a bunch of crazy, broken people—whether we wear it on the outside or not.

I don’t care what my progressive friends say; there’s little doubt in my mind that if Jesus lived among us today, he’d be hanging out at Wal Mart, not to endorse the company’s business practices, but to love on the people—the poor, the sick, the whackos, the mulleted, the morbidly obese, the sluts, the drunks, the perverts, the lost, the lonely, the bent over, the motherless, and the tragically disconnected.

Perhaps I’d catch a glimpse of him now and then if I simply payed more attention.

What kind of people do you encounter at Wal Mart? What can you learn from them? What do you think of Peopleofwalmart.com?

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