I do not want to forget.
Helen and I were heading home after running errands in town one day last week. As we pulled out of the Wal-Mart parking lot, she asked, "So, what are you thinking right now?" This is one of Helen's favorite questions.
"I was thinking," I answered, "that, if I am ever successful as a writer...financially successful...I want to throw a really nice party for the cashiers at Wal-Mart."
When I worked at Wal-Mart, we called the shift from 5:00-11:00 pm "the crap shift" - a crude term, but accurate. All the customers are tired and crabby and in a hurry to get home. All the cashiers are working their second jobs, and they are also tired, crabby, and wishing they could get home.
Wal-Mart at 1:30 pm on Monday is one kind of store. Wal-Mart at 2:30 am on Tuesday is another kind of store. Wal-Mart at 6:30 pm Friday is different kind of store altogether, and it is definitely not the place you want most to be.
During my short stint at Wal-Mart, I learned a few things about the cashiers who work the crap shift. Many of them are coming straight from their minimum-wage day jobs, or they are stepping into the register after a full day of classes at the university. This evening job is their second job, the one they work to just-not-quite make ends meet.
They finished pulling a 9-to-5, and now they are pulling a 5-to-11. Tomorrow, they will do it all again. They are tired and struggling financially, and yet they are some of the kindest, most encouraging people I have met.
They work part-time, so they don't rate many company benefits. They work evenings, so they get the picked over, cold left-overs when the store provides a thank-you lunch in the employee break room.
They negotiate the twilight zone between the day manager and how he wants things done, and the night manager and how he wants things done - it's a bit of a tightrope, figuring out who's in charge at the moment and which protocol to follow.
They process a crush of customers, with their problems and returns and price challenges, just as the Customer Service Desk closes for the night.
There is not much that is very nice about being a crap-shift cashier.
So - that day when Helen asked - I was thinking, "I don't want to forget how hard that was, working evenings at Wal-Mart. I don't want to forget how tired I felt all the time. I don't want to forget the despair I encountered when, working so hard and feeling so weary, I barely had enough money at the end of the week to pay for gas in the van so that I could drive back to work the next day, and the next."
I was thinking, "I don't want to forget how kind my coworkers were, even though they were often exhausted and discouraged, too. I don't want to forget how under-appreciated they all were - by customers, by their supervisors, by the time-clock at headquarters."
I was thinking, "God, please don't let me forget. Don't let time and distance and ease make me forget. Help me to remember, and to be grateful. Help me to remember, and to say Thank You to the woman behind the register."
I was in a crabby mood this morning because I have to put off grocery shopping for another week, and even then, I will probably have to choose between shopping for cleaning supplies and healthcare products or canned goods and produce. I am tired of having to decide whether laundry soap and toilet paper are more pressing needs than potatoes and eggs.
But then I remembered...
I have enough gas in the van to last the rest of the week. We have milk and bread; we have shampoo and dish soap, too. And, I am not scheduled to work the crap shift at Wal-Mart tonight. Thank you, Jesus!
I forgot to be grateful.
God, please don't let me forget.
But then I remembered.
God, help me remember to say Thank You.
And when I finally do make another grocery run...
Lord, remind me to encourage the woman behind the register. Remind me to tell her how much I appreciate her service.
3 months ago