The Real People of Walmart

For better or worse I can’t help striking up conversations with people wherever I go. And because I am a terrible insomniac who will do almost anything to avoid rush hour traffic and crowds, I often find myself in 24 hour stores including Walmart in the middle of the night. Despite what the internet might have you believe you can meet some very wonderful and interesting people there.

One such person at my local store is a clerk who works the graveyard shift. Like myself he is a veteran and although we served in different branches a couple decades apart, we speak the same “language” and every time I see him he tells me to “watch your six” meaning don’t let anything sneak up on you. It always makes me smile.

The other day I was there near the end of his shift and I asked how he was doing. He started to give me an off the cuff answer suggesting all was well, but when I pressed just a bit he got quiet and his lip trembled a bit in a countenance I know all too well from personal experience.
It seems that in the not too distant past he and his lady friend parted ways and he is having a difficult time adjusting. It hurt my heart terribly and while I did my best to counsel and uplift him in the short moments I had, I left there unable to get him off my mind.
Today I was there again standing in front of the bottled water when a woman came down the aisle wearing a hat that read “United States Navy Veteran”. When she began to reach for the cases of water on the bottom shelf she was somewhat stiff and both myself and the young man approaching from the other direction rushed to help her load her cart.

I deferred to his youth (who am I to deprive him of a character building moment?) and while he was helping her, I did as I always do any chance I get upon seeing a fellow veteran, I asked her when she served. Despite the fully gray head of hair I stood there expecting her to give me dates akin to mine of the early ’90s. It was with complete and totally honest shock on my part that I heard her say that she was in during the Vietnam era. Her face looked every bit a decade or two younger. I was so impressed and dumbfounded I simply had to give her a hug as I genuinely thanked her for her service.
Suddenly she was the one to be surprised and grateful.

Now you might wonder what either of these stories has to do with fitness. Well, I’m not sure they do, but what they do share is the thread of humanity that runs through all of us. Every day in our busy lives we probably pass by half a dozen or more people just like those two individuals. They are people like you and I who have their own struggles, stories and pains that might not be readily apparent, but that a simple word or act of kindness from us might help to ease.
We all traverse this (hopefully) long and often difficult road together. A few minutes spent uplifting one another can do wonders not only for the one receiving the gesture, but also for the one providing it. No matter how good or bad things are for each of us today, helping someone even just through kind words is guaranteed to make your day just a little brighter.