This was the living mantra of one famous man, former newspaper boy who started off as many of us, poor and not much to show for. He was none other than the former owner and founder of Chick-Fil-A, the late S. Truett Cathy.
I recently had the privilege to stand by Mr. Cathy’s desk when we visited the Chick-fil-A Support Center, on a community day outing with the group of .developmentally disabled individuals that I work with. I have experienced so many blessings just being with these people, have gone to places I would never have thought of, and have learnt to appreciate life more and to be much more grateful for all the blessings in my life. I feel like God is already well pleased with the service we render these His children, that He is slowly giving us showers of blessings along the way.
There was an air of serenity as we walked towards the office buildings from the beautiful parking lot surrounded by tall majestic trees. The fresh breeze from the swaying branches above was reminiscent of the dense forests of the Aberdares where I grew up. There was something special about this place. As we walked along, there were plaques with biblical verses all over the flower garden, some hidden beneath the taller plants, others in the open yard. One felt a reverence, as is felt in holy places. There was no doubt that this place was blessed grounds.
This great man founded the family owned business on godly principles and lived an exemplary life of self-denial. The young lady Belle, who gave us the backstage tour, began working for the company after eighth grade, and has spent half her life working here. This alone explains how highly Mr. Cathy valued family, friends and people in general. She explained that Mr. Cathy was a staunch Christian who lived what he read in the bible. As I stood there by his desk, I read from his very own well-worn bible, those words in Proverbs 22:1: “A good name is to be chosen than great riches”. There was also on the desk, a painting of Mr. Cathy with his brother, shaking hands with Jesus. Talk of a daring heart that notwithstanding his place in society had the audacity to openly proclaim what he believed and stood for.
Ms. Belle told us that as a newspaper boy, he took the trouble to ensure that the newspapers were safely behind screen doors because some people had a rough time getting to the driveway, and just in case it rained, he never wanted them to be wet, so he never threw the newspapers on the driveway. His mom had taught him at an early age to be considerate and respectful of everyone.
As a young boy, Mr. Cathy had come home one day and requested his mother to tell him what verse of the bible she thought he ought to memorize for the next day’s school homework. She had chosen Proverbs 22:1 for him. When he went back to school the following morning, his teacher liked the verse so much, that she made the whole class memorize it. He thought that if the teacher thought so much of the verse as to tell the other children to memorize it, then it must have been something important. Belle continued to tell us: “It is interesting that he chose a good name to great riches, and God respected his decision so much, that he gave him much more than just a good name”. He gave him a great legacy and a life to be admired. He was blessed so much for honoring and putting God first, that even though Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sundays, it is one of the best performing restaurants.
As we walked around the building, we were met by smiling faces and a sweet atmosphere permeated the place. Everything appeared to be so relaxed, like we had just stepped into another world altogether. We not only found many more plaques with bible verses on nearly every wall, but there was also on display an assortment of vintage vehicles. If you ever wondered if the Batmobile was just a fad in the movies, wonder no more: It is a real prized collection of the late Mr. Cathy. Ms. Belle explained to us that the vast range of models in his collection of “toys” was because he had rescued many families from financial difficulty, and he often bought their prized vehicles at a much higher price than their actual value. Very many lessons to be learnt from this man. His was a service to humanity.
On his 90th birthday his friends and family wondered what they could give to an already wealthy man who wanted for nothing. They finally came up with the brilliant idea of describing to him what he had been to everyone who knew him. They inscribed on a wall all they knew him to be: Kind, generous, patient, loving, humble, different, kind, hardworking, respectful, considerate and all such nice words. Mr. Cathy cried when he saw that wall. Oh what humility!
Being the Philanthropist he was, he was a grand dad to over 400 children whom he adopted through his charitable work of Winshape Homes.
As we left the place, I pondered in my heart: “Here lived a man who pleased God”. I was amazed at what God can do if and when a person fully puts their trust in Him. Contrary to what most believe that to succeed in business or life one has to be corrupt or evil, the reverse is actually true.
I pray that we each leave a godly legacy after we have done our work in this world. May what we choose along this journey be something to be admired and may when others pass through our grounds say: “Surely here lived a God fearing man or woman.”
There’s so much to be told of this man, that this space cannot do him justice, so I wrap up with this interesting quote from S. Truett Cathy: “I live in a do-it-yourself world. Take advantage of unexpected opportunities. If you wish to enrich days, plant flowers; If you wish to enrich years, plant trees; If you wish to enrich Eternity, plant ideals in the lives of others. I enjoy few things more than making people – especially children – smile.”
Let’s continue taking care of one another, because we are all one.
Strive to be happy, it’s still a beautiful world.
Susan W. Kiongo
Kenyan Parents In U.S.A.
Deputy Secretary General C.O.D.U.