A Powerful Lesson from the Walmart Clerk

A few months ago I spoke on a panel for caregivers in downtown Boston. Invited by a wonderful woman who is involved in community affairs, I had no idea what to expect. Frankly, I didn’t quite know how I got the invitation. I don’t think I had grasped that I had become, in fact, a caregiver. The sponsoring group was looking for “clergy” for the panel, and I was asked to speak on the role of faith in the life of a caregiver. I was thrilled for the opportunity to share with this audience the importance of my faith.

I did not know the keynote speaker, however she contacted me a few days before the event in order to go through the details of the morning program. As we tried to find a time to talk that would work for both of us, she mentioned that she could not talk at a particular time because that was during her shift at Walmart. I was confused. She would be speaking to many influential men and women—so I must confess that her occupation surprised me. I felt a bit guilty for that thought, as I know a job does not define a person’s contribution to society—or to other’s lives. She offered no explanation, but sought to find a mutually agreeable time to talk.

This woman’s message at the event was quite impressive. Her speech was informative and inspiring. It was evident that the challenges facing caregivers were on her heart as she sought ways to encourage them, advocate for them, and educate them on available services. Her passion was contagious.

In a follow up conversation I asked her more about her job, as I was quite curious. I learned that she is an astute businesswoman who owns her own company. However, as a spokesperson for the care-giving community, she felt she was not fully in touch with their needs–though she powerfully spoke about them. Thus, she decided to take a shift at Walmart in order to have conversations with caregivers who come through her checkout line. She can spot them by their purchases—unique to caregivers. Her goal is to chat with them, learn from them, and to offer words of gratitude and encouragement. Wow. I left the conversation challenged and inspired. 20170121_135916

Years ago I watched a movie I will never forget entitled “The Doctor.” In this movie a seemingly “entitled” doctor becomes the patient—and his life’s perspective is forever changed. Likewise, a book, “Nickle and Dimed,” by Barbara Ehrenreich moved my heart in similar ways. In this book, the author becomes an undercover journalist who chronicles her attempts to support her family on a waitress’ salary in order better understand and communicate the plight of many women. Though I have often tried to listen to and understand people’s life circumstances and difficulties different from my own… I am free to go back to live in my own skin and surroundings. This recent conversation with the Walmart clerk caused me to rethink needed ways to take my empathy and understanding deeper.

It’s hard, actually impossible, to comprehend the love that caused Jesus to willingly leave heaven for earth to be the human—to feel what we feel, to be tempted the ways we are tempted, to cry the same tears we cry, to feel pain and sorrow, to feel human love and friendship, and to experience death. Yet it’s real. He did it and left us an example.
  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.
  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
(Hebrews 4:14-16)
  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
  but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!
  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:3-11)

While the Walmart clerk, the movie, and the book inspire me to be more aware and considerate, only Jesus can truly change and empower me to live a life of “love with skin on it” that begins inside the attitudes of my heart. I am dependent on his grace and mercy, and long to to learn more keenly to reflect his grace and mercy each day.