Walmart is a Holy Land

“May I buy your groceries?”

Rather than buy ourselves and our young adult children gifts this Christmas, we decided to walk the walk.  You know.  That walk where you stop indulging yourself with increasingly frivolous items and actually reach out to help others not as fortunate.

We bought several Walmart gift cards with funds we would have used to buy our gifts for one another and our kids.   Then our daughter and daughter-in-law (who is pregnant with twins, our 10th and 11th grandchildren, so yes, we have more than enough blessings in our life), Mr. Wilkinson  and I went to our local Walmart yesterday, a beautiful Sunday morning.  Not quite knowing how to do what we wanted to do, just praying we’d get it right and not embarrass anyone or get arrested.  Our girls decided on an approach, took the gift cards, and my husband and I stood at a distance, ready to help if needed.

The girls walked along and watched the check-out lines, and when they felt a tug at their kind hearts, they went up to people ready to check out and asked,

“May I buy your groceries?”

The initial responses were ones of shock and disbelief.  No one was rude, or dismissive.  They just wanted to know why.  The girls answered that they were part of a family who decided this was the way they wanted to celebrate Christmas.  Then a few asked if they were with a church or an organization.  No, the girls said, we are just a regular family and this is our gift to you!  No strings attached!  From us!  

Then the miracles came.

The first one, a young Mom, with a cart of food and just a couple of tiny presents for her little son, broke down in sobs, confiding that she “didn’t know how I could afford any of this”.  Her hugs and her tears washed away all the nervousness our girls felt at first.  They helped her bag her groceries and they all held one another for a long time, before this young woman left the store, trying hard not to sob.

The girls then quickly went to an obviously worn-out and defeated looking Dad, with 4 young sons.  Beat down and broke, you can bet.  In the check-out line, counting the bills in his wallet, nervously.  “May I buy everything in your cart, sir?” they said.   Again, the disbelief, the tears, the hugs, and the sincere, very heartfelt gratitude. That seismic shock you felt at 10:47 am yesterday?  That was a huge crack opening in my cynical heart as I watched this.

Two elderly ladies, with one cart between them, barely full with just the most very basic things.  A 2 pack of toilet paper.  A small package of ham.   A little pumpkin pie with red bow on top.  Cans of cheap cat food.  I doubt they had cats.  They were the most unbelieving of all  – they were literally paralyzed with shock.  One had dementia and couldn’t really understand what was going on, but the other couldn’t believe “anyone cared about us” and “no one has been this kind to me in 75 years”.   

There were people who smiled and merely told our girls, “No thank you!  We are very blessed and in a good place, so please help someone who needs it!”  Pay it forward without getting a thing.  I like it.  

The disabled veteran in a wheelchair, the lonely, unhappy looking girl, the young family with formula and diapers, the older lady who reminded our daughter of her beloved, departed grandma.  Their surprise, their joy, their relief, their gratitude.  All of them giving us more than we could ever give them.

It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced

 And then there was the guy with the tattoos and the swagger and the backward ball cap.  My husband saw our daughter approach him and started to get upset because he thought this guy didn’t look “needy”.  But it turned out, he was one of the most appreciative and gracious people she interacted with.  He couldn’t believe anyone would do this for “Me?  You’re doing this for ME?”.  A misfit, maybe.  Who cares?  Jesus didn’t.  And either did our daughter.  I saw him transformed by our daughter, who was smiling as big as I have ever seen.   As he left, he keep stopping and looking back at her, shaking his head with disbelief, waving, and smiling.  His gift was far more than a gift card.

This heaven on earth continued and each time, the glow from our girls got brighter and brighter.

Who was giving who what?

Me and Mr. Wilkinson?  We just wept and tried to hold it together.  And tried to stay anonymous.  I did speak with a few lovely people, who noticed me watching (I guess I’m not as subtle as I thought…it was probably the wailing)  and came up to me with such open and raw emotion, I could hardly speak.  One woman, standing there holding my husband’s hand and telling him she lost her husband that very day, a few years ago.  And my husband’s face as he remembered he lost his own father on that every same day.  

The cashiers with their Santa hats wept, we wept, people we will never see again, wept, hugged, believing that, at least for a little while, people cared about them.  We gave the cashiers the last of the gift cards and they promptly gave them back to their customers.  How.  Completely.  Awesome.  

I was one of those people who made fun of the “people of Walmart”.  And I’m an idiot.  I don’t know anyone’s story, their background, their pain or their journey in this world.  I judge the badly dressed, the overweight, the sloppy, the ignorant, the ill-mannered.  The same ones, yesterday, who cried when someone offered them a small kindness.  The ones who, when they figured out what my husband and I were doing hiding in the jewelry section across from the check-out lanes, came running over, looked us right in the eye, thanked us and complimented on our wonderful girls.  There’s MY gift, right there.  I haven’t gotten anything as precious as that.  

So, I ask again – who was giving who what??

I absolutely did not want to share this story.  There seemed to be no way to tell it without it reeking of self-satisfaction and self-congratulation.  Ugh.  I was encouraged (forced) by a very close friend, whom I did share it with, to go ahead and write about it.  So I’m sharing it with the hope and prayer that other people can find their own Holy Land, and make a pilgrimage there to honor the birth of Jesus Christ by actually living His sacred message of sharing and sacrifice for others.  

It starts with a question.  Ask it first.   Let it be answered.  “Ask and you shall receive”

And boy, did we receive.

“May I buy your groceries?”

****Update:  I cannot express my profound gratitude for all the good people who have welcomed my post and made such kind and supportive comments.  Thank you and Merry, Blessed Christmas to you and your families.  And for the record, I DO shop at Walmart…all the time.  My comments about the “people of Walmart” is  directed at my shameful judgment of ALL people everywhere.  I AM a person of Walmart.

****Update 2:  As I wrote in the post, I was extremely reluctant to share this story.  But I am so happy I did.  So many were inspired to do the same or something similar and I am positive their own experiences inspired others.  Be bold in your life and do not be afraid of judgement.  Yes, I did get a few messages admonishing me for seeking a “pat on the back”.  If we all sat around, worrying about others opinions, nothing of value would get done.  Thank you Laureen, for encouraging me to be bold.  And thank you to all the readers and sharers of this post.  I’m a bad blogger, inconsistent and often silly, but it’s all been worth it.


144 thoughts

  1. I too am guilty of watching the videos of the people of walmart…. and laughing…and yet I myself shop there. ( I secretly watch to see if I am in them.) While I had a difficult day today….your story touched my heart and helped me to appreciate those things in life that truly are the most precious….take the focus off of myself and my struggles and focus on those that need more than I….more love, more time, more joy….Thank you for sharing your beautiful story!


  2. This is a wonderful example for humanity and, hopefully, a change in direction for the people of this country. Now probably some people reading this are thinking, “They have money so they can afford to be generous,” but how many have money and don’t? Besides, its not really about the money but the attitude followed by action. I can’t afford such myself, but I (unbeknown to anyone till now) try to pick up something in every public restroom I use with a paper towel, just to make it a little tidier. It’s not much, but it just feels right for me. Imagine if we all started doing such deeds what would transpire in this country? What are you going to do that feels right for you?

    Blessings to you and all for your heartfelt tale.


  3. I love how selfless service blesses not only the receiver, but the giver as well. Who received the greater gift? Does it even matter? What a gift to the One who taught us and showed us where true happiness lies. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as he have done it into one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”. Thanks for sharing your sweet experience and giving all of us much to think about!


  4. A lot of people never learn that the commandments are actually just “instructions for living a happy life”. Giving up “stuff”, forgiving, loving your enemies–all the “hard” ones–are the ones that give us the greatest happiness.


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  6. I love that idea, and have done something similar in the past. Love to pay for someone’s groceries in line behind me!!
    Or buy a latte for someone in line behind me. It makes ME feel so GOOD. !!!


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  8. This made me cry, in a good way. Thank you, for doing this. Rarely do I feel moved to reblog anything, but I’ve reblogged this. Maybe it might encourage others to do something similar if they’re in a position to do so. Happy New Year to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I don’t think it’s looking for a pat on the back. I’ll be showing this to my kids. Our family is always looking for a way to bless others, and this gives us a wonderful idea of another way to do that. It also shows how much you gain when you give. If this story encourages one more person to pay it forward, then it’s totally worth it to put it out there!


  10. What a wonderful thing to do. Many people are in need, even if they look like they are not in need. God bless you for this, and I can see He has. I hope more people do this. Surely, when you help someone and you are not expecting anything in return, the blessing and joy in your heart is overwhelming. Thank you.


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