Make Morrison County the caring capital of the world

Aaron “Marty” Martinson paid a visit to Little Falls via V.J. Smith on Monday and Tuesday. Marty passed away 10 years ago, but for those Morrison County residents lucky enough to learn about him, it was an extraordinary experience.

Smith, a professional speaker, told Marty’s story to the Little Falls faculty and students and also to 60 members of the public.

Marty grew up dirt poor during the Great Depression, then fought against the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II. After he returned home, he worked in the back shop of a newspaper for 42 years before retiring.

Five years later, Marty’s life changed when he took a job running a cash register at the Brookings, S.D., Wal-Mart. That’s where Smith first met him. For Marty, that job was a dream come true.

Marty’s register always had the longest line at Walmart. Other checkers would shout, “I can help somebody over here,” but nobody left Marty’s line. Why? Because Marty genuinely cared about everyone who came through his line, asked how they were doing and then waited for the answer. He thought it was the greatest job in the world because he got to shake 220 hands a day; and it made his day when he got someone to smile.

Marty told Smith that there are three keys to happiness:

1. “Relationships matter most in my life. … I get what I give.”

2. “You know, in life you got to try a little bit harder.”

3. “People need to decide to be happy.”

Sometimes people came through his line and had forgotten their checkbook or cash. Marty didn’t want to embarrass them or make them put the merchandise back. Instead, in violation of company policy, he opened his own wallet and put in the difference. He told the customer, “I trust you” to pay him back, and without fail they did.

Marty said he had the most beautiful wife in the world, and was blessed, yet he lived a humble life, living in a double-wide mobile home. He was the richest man in town, however, because he cared so much about others.

Smith urged his listeners to say “Thanks” whenever possible, and noted that Little Falls had a leg up on other communities simply because the lady at the Little Falls McDonald’s had said “Thank you,” when he paid his money.

He reminded his audience, “Every person in here is judged every day on how much they care.”

That’s simple but profound advice. Let’s follow Marty’s example and make Morrison County the caring capital of the world.


  • robin hensel

    V.J. Smith tends to glorify Marty’s gift of hospitality as if it were somehow better than the other spiritual gifts. It is one among many, and to suggest that all of God’s children aim for one way of service ignores that we’re all unique, and blessed with certain gifts. There are other employees at WalMart who were given other gifts, which is why they are able to help organize unions, to fight for economic justice for their co-workers. Many gifts given by one God — all to be used in God’s service, none to be glorified. We shouldn’t all “be like Marty” — we should strive to do the best with the distinct and special gifts God has bestowed on us to share.