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A Journal Entry from a Walmart Employee

We’ve officially been at project for 12 days and we northerners are burnt from head to toe. Perhaps we underestimated the power of the southern sun. Thankfully, long hours at Walmart have protected us from taking advantage of the beach freedom.

I have been a proud Walmart employee for an entire week now. I work in the toys department which basically means I press all of the “try me” buttons and ask the magic 8 ball questions for 8 hrs. Don’t tell my parents about the magic 8 ball though; they’re Baptist and wouldn’t be happy with me. 

Just kidding. I do actually work, too. This week was spent organizing shelves, building crates, crushing boxes, and chatting with my new pal Walter. Walter is a 60 year old man who has the sass and wit of a high society Southern Bell. I have absolutely loved working with him and hearing him comment on customers and managers. I haven't had much of a chance to talk about Jesus with him, yet. Hopefully tomorrow I can ask him more about his faith. I want to build a friendship with him first since we’re working together all summer. 

Aside from the toys, I have loved visiting my friends in their different departments after I finished organizing the toys section. I don’t think the other employees are quite used to our high energy and youthfulness, but hopefully we can bring out their inner teenager by the end of the summer. 

I think the biggest adjustment for me has been working 40 hours a week. I went from working part time and going to school to being at a superstore for 9 hours, 5 days a week. It’s easier to have a good attitude and have fun when I am working with people I enjoy or can have good conversations with, but some days are harder than others. One way I’ve decided to use my “downtime” (moving around merchandise or stalking shelves by myself), is praying and processing the talks we’ve had. God has been a companion to me when there’s no other co-workers around which has been so sweet. 

Tomorrow begins another week at Surfside Wally-world. Stay tuned for quotes from the toy departments main man, Walter. Thank you all for your continued love and support!

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The Difference at Work

The south has its own culture, and the workplace is no exception.

Every summer, our students work at local retailers, grocery stores and fast food joints to earn money for their time at Project as well as back home. This year, we have been blessed with jobs at Walmart and Chick-fil-a.

While I was sitting in the Walmart break room last week, I asked a few students if there are any noticeable differences between working in the south and their past jobs up north. Most of them immediately said there are. When I asked them what the distinctions are, the students were silent. They kept exchanging glances, waiting for someone to come up with an answer.

One student finally said, “I don’t really know, actually. It’s just…different.”

We started brainstorming to figure out what it could possibly be that makes working at Walmart in the south seem so different than any job we have had before. Many of us had worked retail in large department stores, so we decided it wasn’t Walmart itself that felt so different. As we dialogued, we really didn’t come up with anything profound:

“Well, it’s much, much warmer down here.”
“Maybe it’s the language? Phrases are used in totally different contexts. Like when someone asked for a buggy, it took me forever to figure out they were asking for a shopping cart.”
“Yeah, totally! I get that all the time, too. It’s so confusing. And it’s weird that different regions of the country literally have different terms for things.”
“I get called ‘sweetie’ and ‘babe’ and ‘honey’ a lot. Men, women, young, old – they all use those terms to talk to us. And it’s not creepy at all like it might be back home. It’s sweet. It feels like an old neighbor or aunt or uncle saying it.”
“Every woman gets a ‘miss’ in front of her name, too. I’m 21 and my boss is 65, but we both get a ‘miss’ in front of our first names.”
“People in the south seem to like Walmart more than they do in the north. Up north it’s all about Target. Down here it’s all about Walmart and people don’t seem to shop at Target very often, which is so strange. That makes working at Walmart really busy, too.”

After these comments, there was more silence. Everything we had said felt insignificant; none of these differences captivated the way we feel while we’re working at Walmart.

 

Now, as I sit here and reflect, I think I may be able to fill in the blanks.

 

Before working at my first Summer Training Project, I had never worked at a job with dozens of my friends and peers who were all living together, sharing similar experiences, and striving after the same goal – to know more of Jesus.

Think about it…in what other context could something like that happen?

I had never before felt like I had such a strong community with my coworkers. In previous jobs, I had become ‘work friends’ with people, but it was rare for those friendships to extend to hanging out on weekends or going out for coffee. Not only do we hang out together, but we actually live together.

Another marked difference about my first summer at Project was that I had never before viewed my job as an opportunity to minister to my coworkers and share the gospel with them. I wanted to be friendly and accepted by my old coworkers, but I had never thought about building deeper relationships with them or telling them about my faith.

Along with that, I never saw myself as an ambassador for Christ while I worked various jobs throughout high school and the beginning of college. Like I said, I had never really thought about sharing my faith with my coworkers, so it wasn’t like they would have even known I was a Christian. I didn’t have to ever think about how my actions, speech or work ethic was reflecting Christ. At Project, while students are constantly inundated with gospel truths, it’s impossible to not bring that into the workplace.

And let me tell you, that’s a really good thing.

That’s merely one example of students seeing how the gospel and Christianity is not simply a part of life – it is life. You can’t shake off your Christianity when you get to work. Believers in Jesus have been crucified with Christ and no longer live for themselves, but it is Christ and his love who lives through them (Galatians 2:20). As God grows us, his gospel shapes how we view everything in life, including work.  

Maybe that’s why working in the south feels so different. It isn’t so much because the geographical location has changed;

It’s because we have. 

One of our students at Walmart

One of our students at Walmart

A student and Walmart coworker

A student and Walmart coworker

Two of our Chick-fil-a workers

Two of our Chick-fil-a workers


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