I dislike shopping. Yes, I know I am in the less than 1% of women who would rather do just about anything other than shopping, but that is part of who I am.

It wasn’t too long ago that I had to do what I dislike almost as much as having a tooth pulled; I had to grab a few items. Those words alone cause me a little anxiety – especially on a busy Saturday. So to ease the suffering I was about to endure, I narrowed my expedition to the local WalMart, where I knew I could find exactly what I needed in relatively no time at all.

Once there, I zig-zagged the aisles, quickly grabbing specifically what was on my list (and nothing more) and made it through the self-checkout lane in record time. Still laser-focused, I continued my escape toward the exit, where I saw one of their elderly greeters. I thought I would do a cordial, yet quick nod and smile as I left the store, but somehow my plan was really not the plan after all.

When I made it within just a few short feet of this gentleman, he asked me, “How are you today?”

Now, mind you, my feet knew the plan that my brain had set regarding our quick escape, so they only slowed a little. “I’m doing well thank you,” I said with a smile. “How are YOU?” I asked in return.

“Well, to tell you the truth, I’m feeling sad today,” he said, as the glimmer in his eyes that I had seen two seconds earlier dissipated.

With that response, there was no way I could stick with my plan. My heart had quick-cemented my feet to the floor, and no matter how I tried, I couldn’t just walk away. “I’m sorry to hear that,” I replied. “Why are you sad?”

“My friend John died this week…” This sweet old man went on to tell me about one of his friends who had been married for 35 years, and had passed away just a few days earlier – not long after his spouse had died. In his mind, he was sure that his friend’s cause of death was due to a broken heart, because he loved and missed his spouse so much.

“My wife and I have been married for 44 years.” He looked off into the distance, as if in deep thought, “I’ll tell you what, I’m blessed, because she’s shown me real love all these years… and I didn’t deserve it. She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

What was this real love thing he was talking about? Whatever it was, I knew I wanted someone to love ME like that.

“I know that if my wife dies before me, I won’t be far behind her,” he said softly. “I just couldn’t live without her.”

My head was in full spin… Was I really having this conversation with a total stranger… in WalMart? The answer: yes. But a more important question was how in the world could someone love someone else so much that they would not only stay together for so many years – but they would die if they were to suddenly be without the other person?

My feet were apparently still attached to the floor, and before I could close my astonished jaw, the question that was bouncing around inside my brain came flying out of my mouth…

“What IS real love?  How do you get it?” I asked – suddenly surprised that I actually spoke those words.

His words, and how he said them, floored me. They were simplistic, yet so profound.

“Well, I’ll tell you. Real love is more than what people think it is. It’s not the fluffy feeling people talk about. Real Lovelove is hard. You have to work at it every day. You have to do what’s best for the other person, no matter what it does to you. And I’ll tell ya something else… real love is planting yourself in someone’s life – good or bad – and never quitting. Too many people these days just quit and move on thinking it will be better the next time.”

Suddenly there was a page over the intercom and he excused himself and hurried off,  leaving me to ponder what had just happened.

I had been given a great gift. I had been told what real love, really is.