BY TERI R. WILLIAMS | PHOTOS BY ERIC LOVE
A beacon of love, “Ms. Ella” better
known as the door greeter that
changes your day with a warm smile
and words of encouragement.
“Hey Baby,” she said with a voice as warm as dark brown velvet. “You
have a nice day now. I love you.”
I had no intentions of speaking to anyone. In fact, I’d purposely avoided eye contact
as I passed other shoppers in between the aisles in Walmart. Like everyone else, I was in
a hurry. Startled, I turned to the woman I had assumed was there to deter shoplifters by
checking receipts. “Thank you,” I said.
From that moment on, my outlook on the day was different. I slowed down and
thought about simple ways we affect others for good. It wasn’t only her words, but the
heart with which they were spoken. It was like having an encounter with the African
American woman in The Shack. Regardless of what you may have thought about
William P. Young’s fictional book or the movie, the beautiful way in which the woman
characterized God’s unconditional love was pretty amazing. Just like Ms. Ella.
Since I knew Walmart didn’t have God on their payroll, I briefly considered if the
woman might have been an Angel. But after seeing her several times in the same place, I
tossed out the Angel theory and decided to ask if she would meet me one weekend for a
As much as I appreciate Walmart, (which should be obvious from all the money I
spend there), I carefully explained that I didn’t want to meet with her to talk about her
job. I wanted to talk about her. Who was this woman? And where did she come from?
Ms. Ella agreed to meet me on one of her days off. When I realized she had to come
from McRae, I insisted we meet halfway. It was hard to believe that this 78-eight-yearold
woman drove from McRae, Georgia, to Vidalia to work and had been doing so for the
past nine years. Of course, she could have found work closer to home, but she insisted
that the drive was worth it.
“I love my people.” And by “my people,” Ms. Ella meant every single shopper who
comes through the doors at Walmart. It was a humbling realization to see the difference
in the way I thought of my fellow shoppers in contrast to Ms. Ella’s perception of them.
Hometown Living At Its Best 27