Giving up Walmart

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I gave up Walmart for Lent this year.  Not that hard for some, I would imagine.  But here in small town USA with a struggling downtown and not many choices for shopping, giving up Walmart can be considered sacrifice.  So far, it hasn’t been quite as difficult as I had imagined, but there are a few things that simply aren’t available within reason elsewhere.

1.  Oil changes.  I cheated here and after searching for a place to take my car and get an oil change while I waited, I caved.  One night right before going out of town, I went to Walmart.  Not in my town, but the town where my boys play soccer.  During their soccer practice, I got my oil changed at the only place still open and available at 7pm.  Walmart. The red line danger zone had been crossed, and travel was on the horizon.  Jesus and I talked about it.  Safety won out over principle, especially since the decision was not made without awareness.  I knew I was breaking my Lenten vow, and I wasn’t doing it lightly.  But my family’s safety is common sense.  I don’t want to speak for Jesus, but I am pretty sure he’s cool with that decision.

2.  Canned tuna fish.  Little did I know that giving up Walmart meant giving up my favorite tuna.  We buy a sustainable tuna, Earth friendly and all.  It is reasonably priced at Walmart.  Read = Affordable.  At other food stores, it is $4 for one lone little can.  For my family to eat canned tuna salad, it would cost $20 to make it.  Hence, we have given up tuna by default.  I almost asked my friend, Lynsey, to pick some up for me, but I feel this would be cheating.  So I just eyed her tuna enviously instead.

3. Camisoles.  I love to wear camisoles with the extra lining in them.  I have two or three pitifully old ones that need replacing.  Walmart sells the perfect ones.  They are $5.  I am fully aware this is because of sweat shops that are using poor souls as slaves.  I am not proud, but I really want new camis.  I really, really do.  I miss cheap clothing from Walmart.

Now, with all the confessions out of the way, let’s talk about what I have discovered!

1.  BiLo is a good grocery store.  The ones in York sell organic and/ or quality choices for me.  They have the items I was buying at Walmart, plus others that I thought I had to get at Earthfare half an hour away.  There are still a few groceries I get when I trek over to the neighboring town, but so far, BiLo is working for me.  And it is more pleasant than Walmart.  They have regained my business.

2.  The Big Deal really is a big deal!  I can buy all kinds of fun things there.  The boys don’t like it because I get distracted and wander the aisles looking at gardening tools, underwear, coffee, shoes, and toilet paper.  It is a surprise every time!

3.  Downtown needs help.  I knew this before Lent, but Lent has magnified this issue.  We don’t have a good clothing or shoe store.  I found local options in the neighboring town, but that is, again, a half an hour drive.  We have some wonderful gift shops, but very little by way of essentials.  We have ended up at TJMaxx (next town over) more than once because The Snack Shop didn’t have the clothing we were looking for.  Yes, The Snack Shop sells women’s clothing, along with gifts, ice cream, and hot dogs.

Up until about a week ago, I had avoided Target as well, considering it the upscale Walmart and still mainly off limits.  But with the weather changing and soccer in high gear, I did venture into Target to pick up a few things.  What I have noticed is that the big box chains are convenient, but they really aren’t better deals, and they aren’t necessary on a regular basis.  It was helpful to grab a few fresh (albeit slave trade) t-shirts and some sunscreen for the weekend, but having gone on this journey, Target wasn’t as thrilling as it used to be.  We’ll see how I feel after Easter, but so far, I am enjoying the discipline and discovery this Lenten exercise has provided.

Lent and Shopping

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I gave up Walmart.  Not that hard, seemingly.  Four days in, and I realized why I like Walmart.  It takes some of the work out of making decisions and it means less in and out of a car when running errands.

My first challenge came on the second day of Lent when I needed to buy underwear and socks.  I ended up at a local favorite, The Big Deal.  This is the equivalent of a small Big Lots.  If Big Lots was local.  And low and behold, there they carry underwear.  Sadly, the socks were for me and they didn’t have what I need, so as of yet, I haven’t bought socks.  Those would be at Walmart.  Where I am not going.

Next challenge came on four days in.  We ended up driving over to the next town to do our shopping.  Both boys needed “dress” shoes.  Let’s use this word loosely, since what I mean by “dress” is “not caked in mud” and “not athletic wear”.  Kelly and I headed east about twenty miles and started at the local shoe store, Lebo’s.  We found Kelly some fantastic cowboy boots with leather toes and camo shafts.  Perfect for my little banjo player.  They also had a selection of Tom’s and a small selection of boy’s shoes, including some great Merrill’s for little people.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have what my older, preppy child wanted.  They had the Sperry’s, just not in his size.  Next was grocery shopping at Publix, where I had to make way too many decisions and read too many labels to make sure I bought the reasonably healthy choices.  Exhausting.  But, we don’t have a fancy grocery store like Publix in my town, and therefore we enjoyed the pleasant ambiance.  So finally, we ended up at Shoe Carnival.  Quickly found the shoes my older boy could be seen in around town.  At which point, I was asked if I didn’t want to go ahead and buy one more pair since it was a sale.  The second pair of shoes would be half.  Y’all, I wandered around the women’s shoes unable to focus.  Too many choices.  I hadn’t come for myself, and shoes for me weren’t on my list, and I could not concentrate.  No more decisions could be made.  We left with just that one pair.  No sale shoes.  No more choices.

And this is why I think I enjoy Walmart.  I can wander around one big place, but really, for each item I need, there aren’t a whole lot of options.  We eat good, healthy, not so processed food.  Walmart only has little pockets of that.  So decisions are made by simple lack of choice.  Their shoes are not all that fantastic.  Only one or two pairs in the boys section would I allow my children to be seen in around town.  Done.  Not that the older would wear shoes from Walmart anymore, but still.

I am not a shopper.

This is the reason it has taken Lent to make me try another way.  It requires making choices.  And it is tiring.  Is this why we have abandoned our mom and pop stores?  It required getting in and out of the car and they gave us too many quality choices?  Not judging here.  I already told you yesterday wore me out.  Just pondering.

Now, for those that are curious, so far I have bought items at:

Watson Farms – http://www.watsonfarmsbeef.com  This is where I get our meat, and I drive to their farm monthly.  Just over the county line, but actually closer than the next town for me.

Publix – I had to go to another town for this one.  Groceries

Lebo’s – Local shoe store in the next town over.  Fun place for those that like western wear and the nicer brand western or hippy/ hiking/ ergonomic shoes.  Insanely cool boots!

Shoe Carnival – Shoe store chain in the other town.

The Big Deal – A Big Lots with a local flair.  Right here in town.

Ash Wednesday

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The season of Lent in the liturgical calendar has always stood out as important in my book.  As a child, it was the dreaded time we were forced to give up something we valued, such as candy.  It was a terrible season, and I tried my best to make it through by giving up brussel sprouts instead.  Frozen, out of the bag, straight into boiling water, style brussel sprouts.  They were hideous, and my mother served them for dinner.  So I quite piously refused them on my plate for 46 days each and every year.  Lent is technically 40 days, which allows one to exclude Sundays, but I always felt that was cheating, taking a break each week, especially when it involved olive balls of sludge.

Fast forward to today, and my family has been practicing Lent for several years.  Amazingly, the simple act of practicing Lent as a child translated into a deeper connection with my faith as an adult.  And even though I dreaded the season as a girl, saved only by the ability to escape slimy vegetables, as a woman and mother I cherish this time to refocus on my faith and refocus our guidance with our children.  Some years have been more meaningful than others, some easier, some incredibly difficult, but always important even in some small way.

Last year was the only year I remember not participating.  Looking Ash Wednesday in the face and refusing to try.  But I was also helping to nurse my dying mother and giving her up was more than I could handle.   Watching her deteriorate and my father lose his sole mate was more sacrifice than I had signed on for ever.  Even the simple act of refusing meat on Fridays was too much.  More than I could remember.  Losing my mother was an experience in drowning from grief and resilience and joy all tumbled together.  I spent time with and saw people I missed dearly, death bringing those together near and far, and yet I lost one of my rocks.  So while I didn’t get angry at God, I figured He understood my apathy towards that particular Lenten season.  Besides, He and I were on close speaking terms.  He was good with me.

And so now, here we are.  Ash Wednesday.  It is that time to give up and give outwardly; focus on our relationship with Christ, with God, with our Holy Spirit residing in us.  The kids have been involved in planning each Lenten season, oftentimes being the deepest thinkers and most diligent in their Lenten practice.  This amazes me, given my childhood track record. As a family, we’ve given up meat on Fridays, inhumanely raised meat completely, just pork, unnecessary shopping, and anger towards each other.  We have practiced disciplines, such as writing, drawing out daily prayers, making stations of the cross, and on and on.

This year is no different, except that the boys are getting older.  Each wants to dictate his own Lenten exercise.  For Key, we are to eat at the table as a family once daily.  Time where we talk to each other, discuss issues, debate thoughts, is valuable to him and he misses it.  Truth be told, we all miss it, and I am grateful to him in claiming this one.  For Kelly, and also Key, he is to practice his banjo each day.  Kelly’s music brings him joy, and he wants to focus on it.  Key has agreed that practicing violin each day would benefit him as well.  All of these disciplines are worthy Lenten exercises.

And for me?  Well, I am giving up Walmart.  I am giving up the big box super giant that makes me feel the need to shower after shopping.  Local businesses will be seeing me more often as I try to accomplish tasks, such as oil changes and buying Triscuits, without Walmart as a crutch.  Walmart stirs up emotions that I cannot clarify, such as guilt and stress and yet relief of its convenience.  Is it all bad?  Does it serve a purpose in a small town community?  Is it the evil cause for downtown’s current demise?  Can I find everyday items elsewhere without driving thirty minutes to the next town over? These are the questions Huffpost articles regularly tackle, and I will be researching answers for the York community for the next 46 days.  By ignoring Walmart, I can readjust my lens in search of local sources for my everyday needs.

How does this relate to my spiritual practice and my relationship with Christ?

AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31“The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:31

This is my humble attempt at loving my community.  Care to join me?