Exhausted from spending over 5 hours at the track meet, my four youngest children were asleep in the van, so I decided to stop at Walmart on the way home to grab a few groceries.
Jackson is 13 and Tyson is 11, and they both had phones to call me with in case there was any trouble. I left Jackson in charge, and I was not worried one bit. It was a safe area.
I was thoroughly enjoying my alone time in Walmart when I heard this over the intercom:
"Rachel Mills will you please go to the front of the store to meet your party?"
What?!? Millions of thoughts ran through my head of why somebody would need me at the front of the store. At the top of those was, of course, that I was possibly in trouble with the police, but I had asked numerous police officers what the law is about leaving children in the car. I was assured every time that Jackson was old enough to be in there with them… and I really didn't think it was necessary to bring all those sleeping children into Walmart that late at night. I wondered what in the world could have happened.
I made my way to the front of the store, and I saw a stranger holding my little Juliana. Juliana was cuddled into her arms, and all my other children were surrounding this stranger. She had a couple of her own children standing there as well. Three of my kids didn't have shoes on, all of them had bed heads, and they all had this sort of zombie stare. They looked as if they had fought their way into Walmart. My stomach tightened up in preparation of what I was about to hear.
The stranger, still holding Juliana, quickly explained:
She said she had parked her van right next to mine and saw a bunch of cops quickly drive up right next to our vans. They jumped out of their cars and drew their guns toward a sports car parked adjacent to ours. GUNS WERE DRAWN all around our van with my 6 CHILDREN!!
The stranger said she went to the window and asked Jackson where my parents were and how many children were in the car. At first Jackson said it sounded like questions a bad guy would ask, but he too saw the police and the guns and had already been telling the children to keep their heads down.
Despite her own danger, she took the time to pull my children out of the car. She warned them that there was no time for shoes. They needed to run into the store with her.
I could hardly speak as I stood there listening to this story about the chaos in the parking lot and wondering why everything was so peaceful INSIDE Walmart. There were no warnings. The employees were walking around as if in a trance- just smiling at everyone. They were obviously completely oblivious to the police action outside.
I slowly took Juliana out of the woman's arms as I continued to listen. All of a sudden I was the one with the zombie face as I soaked everything in. How could my children have been in such danger?!? Who was this woman?
I asked my children why they didn't call me! They said they were so wrapped up in the moment they didn't even think about it. "This was the moment to think about it for goodness sakes!" I told them. Jackson assured me that he let his siblings know that he was the one to do the talking if the police came to their van window. (He was feeling pretty brave.)
I told several Walmart employees what was going on outside. They showed a little surprise but continued on their way. I don't think they really understood the gravity of the situation. I thought about it. I was even a bit incredulous- except I was hearing the same story from this stranger and from my children.
We waited inside Walmart for about another half hour and then decided to venture back outside. The police were still there, but everything seemed under control. No guns were drawn. They were no longer crouching behind parked vehicles. The police were casually walking back and forth. We assumed the bad guy had been taken away.
I breathed a sigh of relief and wondered what I was supposed to learn from this.
The image that continues to return to my mind is that of the huddled stranger and all the children looking as if they had just been through a war... in contrast to the smiling, oblivious faces of EVERYONE else inside Walmart.
I began to think about the spiritual dangers around us.
There is a scripture from the Book of Mormon that comes to mind:
And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and wouldhold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction."
I have seen the face of the adversary pointing its fiery darts (guns shots) at our family. I have felt the pain of those darts (of those wounds) as an innocent bystander… spiritually speaking. I have also seen the look of oblivious, smiling faces as I've tried to warn others of Satan's tactics.
I am so grateful for the loving woman who knew of the dangers and warned her neighbor…
I love this verse from the Doctrine and Covenants 88:81