“My new BFF is Shirley, who is a cashier at Walmart. Our new friendship started off slow, you know, exchanging niceties. She was having a nice day, just FYI. And yes, I found everything I needed. It was early in the morning. It was going to be an easy in and out of the store.
Everything was running smoothly down the conveyor belt until she came upon my bottle of wine that I needed to get for later in the night. Apparently, they don’t sell alcohol at Walmart until 7:00 a.m. She said I could wait. Afterall, it was only 23 minutes.
I had a pretty large order. It was going to take time. Except, as Shirley pointed out, she’s a fast worker. Always has been. Efficient, too, since she called for a lady to help me out to my car, with 18 minutes left on the clock.
Of course, by now, everybody in line knows I’m waiting until 0700 so I can get ‘the alcohol.’ And as each bagger walks up, they find out, too, and each nod in agreement, mumble the phrase, ‘mmmhmmm, she’s waitin’ on the alcohol.’ I just started waving and every now and then and threw in some ‘hey’s.’
14 minutes to go. Shirley is still working hard. Everything is bagged. She offers me a seat since we still have ten minutes, but I’m good. I’ll stand. Oh, and Fridays are ‘fruit and candy’ days for the employees. I could have a piece of chocolate while I’m waiting. I politely declined. Five times. From five different people. Who are all now huddled around me, waitin’ on the alcohol.
We’re on the countdown. Me, Shirley, three other cashiers, two baggers and Bob, the guy in the electric scooter.
Enter Mary. She’s the manager of some sort.
But back to Shirley for a minute. She’s been married for a long time. She can’t remember how long because she can’t remember how old she is. She married her high school sweetheart. She likes him now. But in the beginning, they almost killed each other more than once. But when he was in his 40’s, he had an aortic aneurysm. She called 9-1-1.
Then she put her hand on his heart and prayed for him.
And he survived.
And that’s about the time I started crying in line. (on a side note, I need to change my estrogen patch).
And then Shirley kept talking, about her life. A beautiful, full, sweet life after a scary time. A life I so desperately wanted after I prayed over my own husband, hoping he would not die from his cancer. But he did. He did die. And I didn’t understand what Shirley did differently to save hers. But, in that moment, as we were standing there listening to her talk about the love she had for him and her family, my heart swelled. I was genuinely happy for her. I wasn’t jealous. I thought I would be, but I wasn’t. I was so enthralled by what she was telling us, that I couldn’t elicit any other emotion other than pure happiness for this sweet soul standing before me. When somebody is that happy about their life, you can’t help but be happy. You just can’t. And the others around me felt the same way.
So, nobody noticed when it was already five past seven. No – me, Mary, Michelle, Tina, Stephanie and even Bob in the electric scooter hung onto every word, some with mouths open. Some leaning on the counter. Some smiling. Some nodding their heads. All silent, listening to the stories this woman was telling us. A bunch of strangers brought together by a woman who was pouring out her tragic, wonderful life. That was, until Shirley promptly announced it was time for the alcohol, which incidentally was a phrase immediately echoed over and over by my new friends who were practically high fiving at check-out #8. Time for the alcohol. We made it. All was right in the world.
I thanked the beautiful Shirley and told her it was the best experience I’ve ever had at Walmart. Mary asked me to take the survey. I agreed.
And then Mary walked me out. She was 13 when she left home. She hitchhiked to Woodstock and then back and forth across the United States seven times. It wasn’t scary. She took a friend with her. Her dad died. She didn’t want to be a burden to her mother, so she just left. And when she came back, she managed to get her high school diploma.
We loaded the car, then stood under what was left of the dark early-morning sky, and both shivered slightly from the cold. Her telling me about adventure after adventure and me soaking it in. And then me, feeling guilty that I didn’t even get dressed to make this trip because I had decided there was nothing good about Walmart before I had even pulled up.
Yet, on this day, I met two fascinating women. One who knew what fear was. Who in the face of that fear, put her hand on her husband’s heart because she knew that’s where it was supposed to be. And another who, as a child, sacrificed her childhood because in her immature brain, thought it was what she should do for her mom.
I hugged Mary in the parking lot, got in my car, and cried.
I’m humbled today. A little choked up. I’m checking my judgy self. I’m putting aside my pettiness and refocusing on what’s important. I’m not going to assume things anymore. I’m not going to let the little things get to me. They say life is too short to live in regret. But, you know what, sometimes life is too long. Sometimes, life is too long to spend it focused on the wrong things.
I sat in my car wiping tears until the sun came up, thankful of the reminder of how amazing life is. And how those two fascinating women were brought into my life exactly when I needed them. I hope you all get a Shirley and a Mary in your life at some point to remind you what’s important and throw you back on your path. Watch for them. You never know when they will come, or who they will be. I sure didn’t expect it, especially not grocery shopping. But on this day, I’m thankful my kids needed to eat. I’m thankful for the stories. I’m thankful for the message of love, unity and hope. I’m thankful for Mary. I’m thankful for Shirley. And above all, I’m thankful that I get to share this with you. Get to living, friends. Get to loving. Take the adventure. Place your hand on somebody’s heart. Just get to it all. I know I’m going to.”
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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her book “Grief Life” is available in print and kindle. You can find more of her books here, and her podcast here. Connect with Diana on her author Facebook page, and Instagram.
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