Today I had the privilege of being able to participate in a Daily Walk series meeting. The Daily Walk is a monthly meeting where anyone is able to attend an hour long meeting with Executive Officers of Walmart and hear them share their personal testimonies and their convictions, and talk about work/life balance in regards to their faith. They open up the last few minutes of the meeting for an open-forum Q&A session. Its hosted off-campus, generally in an open space, and its brown-bag-lunch style. Spend an hour, bring your lunch, and hear some pretty cool people speak—I’m game.
Today was especially uplifting. And powerful. And I am SO glad I attended.
I had the privilege of hearing Mike Duke speak. Mike is the President and CEO of Walmart, in case you’re living under a rock or you don’t know much about Walmart. He and his wife Susan are a couple of big-hearted, Southern-hospitality-minded, God-fearing Christians who have long since won my heart and admiration with their genuine love for people. They’re so involved in their church, their family, and their community, including Susan serving on the Board of Directors for the NWA Children’s Shelter that has captured my mother’s (and my family’s) love for so many years.
After a comical introduction by Don Soderquist, Mike spoke for roughly 35 minutes about his humble childhood, being raised by Godly parents in a small small house with a hardworking father who instilled discipline and motivation to work for your goals in Mike. He spoke about growing up knowing about God and learning about the Bible, but later in life learning that knowledge does not build faith; communication with God, trusting Him and believing in the knowledge you’ve gained is what builds faith.
I love how the majority of Southern boys relate football and religion. This was no different with Mike. He spoke about listening to a group of Georgia State football players who were involved in FCA talk to his 9th grade football team after practice one day, and how they shared their faith in a way that sparked his yearning to understand the Lord on a deeper level. This makes me fondly remember my FCA group in junior high, and all the community leaders, local notable athletes and other role models that came to share their testimonies with us in our young impressionable years, where we constantly raged the battle of temptation versus triumph in Christ in our minds. (It also makes me think of the wonderful Christian example set for us in high school through our cheerleading coach, Martina Peacock, and how thankful I am to have had her influence in my life not just for a few years, but hopefully for many to come, thanks to staying connected through social networking.)
My favorite part of Mike’s speech today was about how God led him to NWA. 15 years ago he and Susan came for a weekend-long interview to not only meet with Walmart executives, but also see northwest Arkansas. He said he felt God calling him to be somewhere other than St. Louis, but he was trusting that God would show him a sign as to whether or not that Bentonville was where he should be. Though they were immediately taken with Bentonville and the culture of Walmart, he got his “sign” while visiting Central United Methodist Church that Sunday morning, when the pastor’s sermon centered around a particular Psalm that Mike and Susan had been clinging to in the weeks leading up to their visit here: Psalm 23. Trusting God to truly be his shepherd and lead him to where he needed to be, the Dukes came to Arkansas.
Now… a lot of you who are reading this are probably thinking “Am I on the wrong blog? Is this really Amanda who’s writing this?!” You’re not used to seeing this side of me. I don’t share my views on God, Christianity, the church, or faith. My reasons why are not important, or at least are not relevant to this posting… but for a few of you who’ve known me for years, you know I’m a believer. I believe, I pray, I read my Bible. I still have the same Bible I used in junior high and high school, listening to Tad Thompson and Hutch Kufahl preach at Studio 412 at FBC Bentonville. I’ve kept it because I love to read all the notes I made in the margin, all the quotes from Hutch’s sermons and Tad’s powerpoints. I like to remember my faith as when I viewed it with the fullest passion, headstrong and reverent, regardless of what others’ said or thought. I carried my Bible to class with me, I referred to it often. Since the days of Sunday morning and Wednesday evening youth services, Sunday school get-togethers, and church group summer pool parties, a lot has changed: never my love for Christ, but I’ve struggled a lot with trusting Him. Especially when most of the people who helped encourage my relationship with Him turned away when I needed them the most. Therein, a lot of my trust issues are with those who SAY they follow Him but do not demonstrate it.
Let’s not open that can of worms right now… Continuing with what I learned from today.
I could completely relate to Mike’s story about seeking a sign. A couple of years ago, I was working in retail and loving my opportunity to do such. I loved retail management, being up-to-speed on cutting-edge fashion, and working with fun people every day. The money was good, the discount was great, and I was having a blast. Then Miss Jailyn made her appearance, and suddenly my priorities got a big slap in the face, knocking me into my new reality. I needed a more stable schedule, better benefits, less stress, and to work with people who were more understanding and family-oriented. Retail (especially commission-driven) is greedy, exhausting, and was giving me headaches.
I started praying for a new opportunity. Anything that would allow me to be more available to my daughter, take care of my family, and pay the bills. Something less stressful, something that would better me both personally and professionally. Something I could do to make a difference, but also wouldn’t drain me of all my energy so that it would do a disadvantage to Jaret and Jailyn.
After previous applications had gone unnoticed or unanswered, a friend stepped up and pushed my resume through to a recruiter at Walmart. I got a phone call, followed by an interview. I received a job offer that had pro’s and cons: better benefits and more stable working schedule, but less money. Closer to home but now needed a regular baby-sitter instead of just whenever Jaret couldn’t keep Jailyn. (We’d both be working days as opposed to my previous three nights a week and weekends.)
There were both benefits and disadvantages to taking this job, so I was honestly torn in my decision. Plus, there’s always apprehension about starting somewhere new, being the “new kid”, going through training and making mistakes to learn from them, etc. So I prayed about it, and asked for a sign as to what decision to make.
The next day at work was a breeze… Everything went the way it should, the schedule worked flawlessly, sales were awesome, and everyone was in a great mood. It was beautiful weather outside, I got a lot of compliments on my outfit that day, and my hair curled just right. For a brief moment, I thought everything was just as it should be and I was being silly “wasting time” looking for something new. Is this wasn’t a sign that I was where I needed to be, I didn’t know what was.
Then, the skies opened, and the bottom fell out.
My boss came storming in, in one of her ridiculous rants: tore the store apart, destroyed newly constructed displays, cut people’s hours for the day to “save payroll” and belittled us for “prematurely celebrating” a good sales day at only 6pm when “there’s always room for improvement and we’re open for three more hours.” She killed everyone’s upbeat attitude, turned team player’s against each other over commission issues, and made a huge mess of the store while criticizing all of our merchandising tasks we had already completed that day. This negativity spread like wildfire and soon we were frustrating with customers, frustrated with each other and frustrated with ourselves, because of her.
Boy, was I wrong about my “sign.”
So I accepted the job at Walmart, enjoyed (perhaps a little too much) giving my notice of leave at work, and went on about my life. Quite quickly, things turned around at work: more “thank-you’s” were said, more praises given, etc. But it was too late.
I started with Walmart feeling nervous and anxious and apprehensive about all the challenges that lie ahead… and one by one those challenges fell away. God gave me my sign that I was where I needed to be by easing my mind about every issue I faced and giving me a clear, simple solution to each one. He let me continue to feel anxiety so that he could reaffirm my need for Him. He continued to present challenges so that I could learn to seek the solutions in Him. Trust me, they were sometimes hard lessons to learn but they had wonderful outcomes and rewards in the end.
Everything I’ve experienced at Walmart has been an opportunity for growth and development. There have been challenges, obstacles, hurdles, etc… And there have been great rewards, acknowledgements and relationships to come from each of them. Every time something pops up that casts a shadow over my work-day, the sun shines a little brighter when it’s resolved. I have had continual affirmations that I am in the right place, at the right time. Case in point: when I was beginning to get burnt out in customer service and felt I could no longer give my all to that department, my current position became available on the portal. I applied for and interviewed for it, among several other positions, and honestly thought I BOMBED the interview for this position… and I was so surprised when I received my first of three offers from the same interview panel that I thought I bored to death. I am now surrounded every day by a fantastic group of people who all have their opportunities and personal successes as well, and never hesitate to share them with me so that I may learn from them. I know this may sound monotonous along with some of the things I’ve posted about my job on facebook, particularly in my notes about Thankfulness (which I fully realize I never finished out my month of thankfulness, no need to remind me)… but to me, this is important enough to keep bringing up.
Today was another affirmation for me, another sign that I’m where I should be, that I work for the right company: listening to my CEO confess his love for Christ and his faith in his Shepherd. How many companies are led by a God-fearing Christian these days? Moreover, how many multi-billion dollar companies have leaders who will talk about their faith so freely, without hesitation despite the fact that so many people find mention of religion to be “offensive”? How many CEO’s say that they are where they are today because God put them there; when they could so easily spend hours and hours boasting about their accomplishments and degrees and experience and connections, etc etc etc, and instead barely take two minutes to sum up the truth—God called and Mike followed. I’ve never been so proud to be a Walmart associate.
During the Q&A session at the end of the meeting, someone asked Mike if there was anything that we could be praying for in relation to the company, or even for Mike himself. His immediate answer was to pray for the associates, especially “in the frontlines”as he put it. Pray for the store associates as they are working their tails off, keeping the shelves stocked and helping customers and keeping the checkout lines running smoothly. Pray for those who are working overtime, away from their families, to provide a good experience for the customers at Walmart. And he said to pray for our customers. Pray that everyone experiences the true meaning of the holiday season, and that everyone stays healthy and happy. Finally he said to pray for the success of the company: not in a financial sense, not in a market-share sense, but just in the sense that the company is put in the position it needs to be to do God’s will. To serve its customers, to help the community, to provide jobs. To me, this was such a powerful answer. Another affirmation that I work for the right leadership.
I have a new outlook on my work family and my company today. One little hour has reignited my fire for Walmart, my passion for its culture, and my love for its influence. My faith received a breath of fresh air as well. I am more energized to do my best at my job. I’m proud to work where I do. I’m thankful for the example set for me by my leadership.
I’ve found a new truth in Psalm 23.