Your timing was impeccable, it really was. It was a hot July afternoon and I had just exited our neighborhood Walmart with my newborn baby and 4 small children in tow. It was well over 100 degrees and the heat radiating from the parking lot, and the stiff wind that had just picked up made it feel like the world's largest convection oven. The children were hot, tired, and whiny- and I was on the verge of losing the little sanity I had left.
With a screaming baby in the carseat, I loaded my groceries in the trunk of my car as quickly as I could and looked around for the nearest cart corral.
I wanted to cuss. Parked in front of the nearest cart corral, blocking all access to it, was a pimped out Dodge Neon. You know, the low-rider with the chrome wheels and the ridiculous, over-sized spoiler on the back. That *$%&@... He was using the cart corral like a parking spot, with his back end sticking several feet out into the parking lot.
I couldn't leave my cart in the parking lot because the wind would have blown it into another car. The next cart corral was further than I could go, leaving a hot car full of kids and groceries unattended. The thought crossed my mind to take a picture of the *$%&@'s car and send it into "The People of Walmart", the website that showcases the trashiest people who shop there. And I won't lie... with it came the urge to key the punk's pimped out paint job.
This is where your impeccable timing comes in. I heard your blaring country music first, and then saw you bumping and thumping down the parking lot in your rusty, old pick-up truck. I saw you park and get out of your car: tight Wranglers, mullet hair, missing teeth, funny walk...
Bitterly, I thought, "There's another person whose picture I could take and send in with Mr. Dodge Neon."
And then you did something that stopped me dead in my pissy, judgmental tracks. You walked with your awkward, limping gait across the parking lot and cheerfully asked if it would be helpful if you took my cart back to the store for me.
Caught completely off-guard and flustered by this turn of events, I said it would be wonderful and thanked you for your kindness. Speechless, I got in my car and watched you for several minutes as you made your way towards the front of the store. Along the way, you stopped at each person who was loading their car and asked if you could take their cart. By the time you reached the front of the store, you were pushing a half dozen carts.
I was so ashamed of myself, I wanted to cry. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of the Dodge Neon blocking the cart corral. It seemed so trivial now.
I've thought of you several times since that day.
Yesterday, I was in the parking lot of a grocery store, trying to load a 50 pound bag of flour into the back of my car. I struggled for several minutes, trying to find a way to do it without hurting my already injured back. I finally got it in and looked up to see a man, whose picture could have also been on the "People of Walmart" website, hurrying toward me.
"I'm sorry I didn't get here in time to help you ma'am. I saw you struggling and wanted to help you. Next time I hope I'll be around to help." I thought of you again and remembered your kindness just a few months before.
I'm not sure why people like me scoff at those we cruelly label as the "people of Walmart," as if they were a species of their own. Maybe it's to make ourselves feel better about our own pathetic short-comings. Maybe by seeing someone who looks like their life is falling apart, we feel like we have it more together than we thought. Maybe we think it washes away all the classless, trashy things we do and say.
But judging by the thoughts that went through my head that day in that Walmart parking lot, who was really the one without any class?
Thank you for reminding me that we can't ever judge people by a snap-shot moment- not even several of them. Because there are countless snap-shot moments in my own life that I hope and pray people don't judge me by.
Thank you for reminding me that although we are members of the human race, that we are not actually in a race. Maybe the word "race" makes us think that this is all a competition and that we're all in it against each other. But even if it were a race, I would have to say that on that hot July day you were, in fact, the winner.
God bless you, Mr. Walmart.
A very thankful mother of 5