Meeting God in Walmart

3 Dec

I made my bi-weekly trip to Walmart last night to stock up on my staples. I was determined to take my time. “Slow down,” I repeated to myself.

In an effort to be more present, to pay attention, and to practice patience, I slowed my pace, I monitored my thoughts, and I tuned in to my body. More than a few times I caught  myself going round and round in some rather harsh commentary about myself and others.
“She really shouldn’t be putting that in her cart.”

“Fantastic. The busiest aisle in the store is the freaking candy aisle.”

“Bypass the pita chips, Kori. Think of the size of your *ss here.”

If you’ve never taken the time to just observe what crosses your mind, it might surprise you. I’m betting that the majority of what runs across the marquee that is your brain is negative and critical. And you know what? We act the way we think. Lovely.

As I allowed those thoughts to surface and noticed them, I practiced letting them go right back out. I breathed. I looked at the other shoppers in the eye and would smile.

An amazing thing happened within moments. The other customers smiled, they moved their carts out of my way, they said “excuse me”, and they appeared softer. All of this in Walmart when we’re 3 weeks away from Christmas! Stress is high and I’m positive I’m not the only one feeling impatient!

I made my way up to the registers and slowly guided my cart up to behind a couple young women with a child in the front of their cart. He looked to be about two or three years old and was adorably dressed in stylish little jeans, a red sweatshirt that seemed abnormally clean, and a teamed baseball cap. As I got closer, he looked at me sheepishly, with an almost embarrassed, pleading urgency. “What’s wrong?” I thought to myself. The two women, one whom I assumed to be his mother, was on the other end of the cart emptying its contents onto the belt. I looked back at the boy. His hands were covering the front of his jeans, and he was squeezing his legs together as inconspicuously as he could muster. I glanced up to meet his gaze, and he furtively averted my eyes. He glanced down, viewing the area around his feet. I knew instantly what the poor boy was doing.  The bottom rungs of the cart were dripping and a small puddle began to form beneath him. The boy looked at me again, guiltily. I said, “you have to go to the bathroom…” He nodded, slowly.

My next move surprised me. I paused. I actually questioned whether to say anything to his mother. Here was this boy who had an accident and I’d just stand there and watch it happen? He was embarrassed, suffering, knew that what had happened wasn’t supposed to but didn’t have the courage to say anything himself.

I moved forward to touch the woman softly on the shoulder. “Ma’am,” I said, pointing to her son, “he just went to the bathroom. I know he feels really bad about it.”  When I said it my next thought was “What did I just say? That was weird.” I was talking about a little boy who I knew instinctively felt terrible about what he had done, but how do I put that in words? And now why the heck am I concerned about how I just said that?

She turned to look at her son, examined the area around the cart, and with compassion, picked him up and pulled him safely to the floor where he stood covering himself as best he could, the dark area of his extra tiny jeans still exposed. “Oh honey, how come you didn’t tell me?” she said to him, not really expecting him to answer. She asked the cashier for something to clean the floor with. A huge  roll of paper towels and disinfectant was promptly delivered to her from over the card scanner.  She sprayed the floor & began unrolling the paper, lying it on the floor to soak up her son’s urine. Mopping it up with her foot, she then asked for a plastic bag to dispose of the soiled towels. “Please let me help,” I said, reaching for the paper towels. “Oh, you don’t need to be doing this…” her voice trailed off. “I’m happy to,” I assured her with a smile. We finished the job together. “This area of the floor has never been cleaner!” I exclaimed. She laughed, letting her guard down just a little, and thanked me.

She finished paying for her groceries and walked away, leaving me to my thoughts.

I could have stood there and watched the whole thing happen. I could have allowed my first thoughts to dictate my actions. I could have given the young boy the message that people are harsh and see what’s happening and don’t do anything about it, that “you have to fend for yourself.” God was with me in Walmart last night though. I know he’s with me every night, but I never pay attention like I chose to this time. My heart opened, my mind observed, and my body responded.

My revelation: While tuning in and intentionally being more aware of my thoughts and feelings presented me with more data, more emotion, more “noise” than I’m used to, it also presented me with more opportunities. If I’d been absorbed in the “doing” that I typically am, perhaps fiddling with an email on my Android while I’m waiting in line, or checking off my to-do list, I’d never have noticed this rich moment unfolding before me.


2 Responses to “Meeting God in Walmart”

  1. Mark December 4, 2011 at 7:12 PM #

    Wonderful blog Kori, being present to the “presence” is challenging but very rewarding in those few times we (or God) break(s) through! We heard a speaker talk Thursday night on intergenerational pain and healing about working toward “compassionate connection” with others. Finding the spirit of “life, good, and God” in us and them is what it’s all about, especially this time of year. Thanks for moving us in that direction, Cathy calls me a “scrooge” though a “cuddly” one, so I am part way there! You are speaking to her very well lately because she is listening — hearing and doing!


  2. Kori Propst December 5, 2011 at 6:08 PM #

    Funny, Mark! The church service yesterday began with a funny mocking of presents and presence. 😉
    Rewarding for sure. Intentionally and purposefully paying attention and being open to the raw moments of life makes for so much meaning!
    A scrooge! I love it! I’ll take ya, as Scroogy as you are. If that’s you, then let the Scrooge out!!

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