Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Unexpected Keeping of Christ in Christmas

Ah, Walmart. The 'evil' empire that people just love to hate (and yet most of them still shop there). Just mention the company name in a public setting and you won't have to wait long for the bashing to begin. Growing up with a father who has worked for Walmart for the last 18 years, I've not been a stranger to the comments and am perfectly aware of the overall negative public image of this company. I can even see the validity of some of the points that are made, however I must stand up for Walmart. As an employee of Walmart and as a truck driver, my father has been treated with more respect and honor than any other company I know treats professionals in his field. He has been paid a fair, possibly even generous, salary, and has been able to more than support our family over the years. I have seen the pride he takes in his job grow over the last almost two decades as he has been repeatedly promoted and rewarded for his performance, and have attended many of the functions put on by Walmart that celebrate their employees. Most of my father's coworkers have become like family to us and to each other, as they have worked together for years and years because they are treated so well and enjoy their job so much. In fact, most of the drivers see Walmart as the ultimate goal in their career path because their reputation in the industry--they are known for treating their drivers with the utmost respect and fairness.

Today was my father's work Christmas party. Notice I said "CHRISTMAS" party--not "holiday" party. That's because Walmart is not afraid to call it what it is, a Christmas party. In this day and age of PC-ism, of stores and people being afraid to offend someone by merely uttering the word Christmas, this alone should be a reason to applaud Walmart. But it gets better, folks. As the opening speaker welcomed the crowd, he asked us to think about the reason for the season. He chose to recite the following poem to help us to keep Jesus central this Christmas:

This Christmas...Let's Give a Little Jesus, a thoughtful word or deed, an act of generosity for someone who's in need. Let's Give a Little Jesus to everyone we meet--the salesclerk or the server, the person on the street. Let's Give a Little Jesus, that's what really counts--not what's spent or bought, for whom, in what amounts. Let's Give a Little Jesus to everyone, large or small...for Jesus, the Messiah, is the Greatest Gift of All

I have to tell you, I was shocked. Here is a room full of hundreds of people who all work for this so-called evil corporation, yet this man has no fear bringing Jesus up. I had goosebumps, I swear. I could not believe that I was at a non-church or non-Christian event and here was a man freely speaking of Jesus without worrying about creating some kind of outrage. You could really tell that he believed in what he was saying, and it was powerful (even if the poem was a little cheesy).

But then. THEN. The unthinkable happened. Just before we were being dismissed to the breakfast buffet, this man asked us to bow our heads in prayer. He prayed a heartfelt prayer for us, asking Jesus to be with us and to bless each one of our families this season. He prayed for our food and asked that Jesus nourish us with it. He prayed for peace and for the families out there who do not have jobs right now and are struggling to get by. He thanked Jesus for a roomful of people who still have their jobs, even in this economy. Amen.

As far as I could tell, everyone in that room bowed their heads along with him and prayed; it did not seem that anyone was offended or put off by him saying a blessing before the meal.

The rest of the party went the way many work parties do...the usual door prizes and acknowledgements and that sort of thing. However, each one of the speakers mentioned at least once that we need to focus on the real reason for Christmas, and to remember that there are others out there who are not able to afford gifts and things for their families this year. Walmart has so many ways that they are giving back to communities all over the United States and while they did not flaunt it, they did mention some of them in order to urge each employee to do their part to give back as well. Honestly, it was very tactful and it really seemed as if these managers felt strongly about what they were saying. It was encouraging.

While I believe that there are things that Walmart as a large corporation does need to address, I am more proud than ever to say that my father works for this company. I hope that Walmart continues to set this kind of example to their employees.