Because I live for much of the year in a sparsely populated location, it was big news a few years ago when the Walmart came to a town nearby. By “nearby” I mean a 40 minute drive away. By “town” I mean that 13,000 people live there. It calls itself Heber City, but I know fer cities (Chicago and Boston in particular), and “City” in this case is stretching it.
At last there is an option for one stop shopping! I like their prices on basics. I like that I can go in without worrying about whether I’m dressed stylishly. I like the little game I made up of seeing if I can spot at least one person wearing a cowboy hat when I go. The Heber Walmart needs better lighting, in my opinion, but all in all it’s a decent experience for savings on staples.
I go in expecting not to be judged, and I purposely try to find a kinship with the clientele. We’re all here looking for good deals with minimum hassle at the check-out lanes. It becomes an exercise in being one with all my smart-shopping brothers and sisters on earth as it is in Walmart. A little love fest in the aisles.
A couple weeks ago while in the Walmart dairy aisle I came upon a wailing 4-year-old and the four Fundamentalist Mormon women who were with her.
I will admit that this put a little hitch in my love fest giddy-up. It was a strange sight to me, what with the prairie dresses and the long hairstyles pulled back or in buns. I recognized an array of new feelings – not all of them good – trying to grab my attention. Dear Self, what do you make of this?
Would I have reacted the same way if I saw Amish or Mennonite women shopping there (if that’s even allowed) in their unusual garb? I don’t think I so. I guess I view the Amish as “charmingly other”, quirky but quaint. In fact, come to think of it, I once spent a happy afternoon in Lehman’s Hardware in Kidron, Ohio, checking out the snout rings and hog scrapers cheek to jowl, so to speak, with actual Amish farmers. If anything, I was the “other” in that setting.
But Fundamentalists? A whole list of presuppositions, warning lights, hazard signs came flashing across my brain’s bandwidth. Aren’t these folks running some kind of welfare scam? Don’t they diminish their women – or worse? What about all those lost boys? Do they represent some kind of threat? How can they embrace polygamy? Creepy! Oh wait, isn’t that what prophets of our church taught as doctrine back in the day? (Still creepy, if you ask me.)
And whoa, aren’t these essentially the same kind of ill-informed, reckless misinterpretations other folks hurl at liberals/conservatives/ “regular” Latter-day Saints/Muslims/gingers/other races/gays/people with piercings, etc.?
There I stood, reaching for a bag of shredded cheddar, wondering how I was supposed to respond to Fundamentalists in my midst. I even had an impulse to scry some portent out of the contents of their shopping cart (cake mixes and plastic hangers so far).
And, as is the usual background music of my heart, I could hear myself begging, “Jesus, Jesus! What should I do? What should I think? How should I feel?”
And the old answer whispered again: “Love them.”
But they’re “other”!
But aren’t they off track theologically?
“Love them. Besides, everybody needs further light and knowledge.”
Does loving them mean condoning all those things I don’t understand?
“Just love them. And that goes for everyone. Don’t overthink this, Linda. It’s what We’ve been trying to tell you since before the dawn of time…
“And by the way, Linda, I love you.”
Heber City doesn’t have a temple. Yet.
In the meantime, for me Walmart is the next best thing.
Where have you enjoyed unexpected epiphanies? What did you learn? How do we “just love”? Not all Walmarts are created equal. Share your experiences.