Friday, June 30, 2006


She stands at the door of Walmart; she's 83; she started with the company in 1970. She buried her husband last year. I asked her why she didn't retire; she said, no way; nothing to live on.

Her body's going down; she drags one leg behind the other one. When she was 80, she was a lot sprier. I told her I couldn't possibly do what she did every day; she was disconcerted, seemed to be afraid of me; there's obviously an enormous social distance between us.

One day she sat down on a customers' bench to rest a minute; I sat down there, and we got into a conversation. I convinced her I wanted to be her friend. (After all I don't do anything but sit around while Ellie shops.)

She used to smile at every customer who came in (she's called a greeter). A few years ago she seemed to know everybody; people gathered around her. But that time is past; she's obviously suffering, and nobody wants to be around suffering.

Last week I walked up to her and told her that sometimes I feel older than she is. She said "honey, you don't know...." I didn't really get much of what she said.

I often think of her: "there but for the grace of God....". But I have stronger feelings about Grace. I want to do something for her. I thought about writing about her; maybe I'll bring her a copy.


david said...

I wonder how it is that Wal-Mart still has her greeting if she's starting to not be quite the smiling face of the corporation any longer. Maybe somebody is holding onm for her. maybe she's still there by the grace of God because someone is becoming the grace of God for her. Maybe someone like you listens to her.

Larry said...

You're probably right, David. Even a soulless corporation might hesitate to put an old lady out in the street after she's given 36 years of her life to them.

I guess I need to find out a couple of things. Is she drawing social security? if not, why not?

If so, why not have a great party and celebration for her and give her some encouragement to retire?

Or maybe Walmart is still her life. We're all more complex than people dream.

anonymous julie said...

"She's obviously suffering, and nobody wants to be around suffering."


Larry said...

Julie, I'm fully (and painfully) cognizant of the fact that I "pass by on the other side" ten times a day, but for some strange reason I felt (feel) the need to do something for this poor old lady.

Actually I have a weakness for poor old ladies and men, just like Ellie's heart goes out to all the 'younguns' she encounters.

I certainly wasn't preaching with this post.

anonymous julie said...

Ah, Larry, didn't mean to seem to accuse you of anything. That was a most striking sentence, so I quoted it... have every faith that you will know what to do and let yourself do it. :)

Meredith said...

Ahh Larry, you kind soul. You know, it's not so much what you do, but who you are that matters. You are the one who sits to listen, to express your care and concern, to share your warm heart. That's what you are. And if in this Being, you do, then it is a response from wisdom that guides you, and it will be a 'just-right' response. Trust that. I trust that in you.