“The one thing I take more joy in than anything else in the world is seeing young people develop.” – S. Truett Cathy
Chick-Fil-A fans and the Cathy family are taking note of the legacy left behind by the founder of America’s top chicken restaurant chain. Fifty years after he created the recipe for his famous sandwich, Georgia businessman Samuel Truett Cathy was announced to have died “peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones.”
It’s unfortunate that some people will only get to know a person better after they pass away than from the impressions they draw from headlines. I encountered this myself when singer/writer Rich Mullins died, as he went from being in mind “that guy who wrote ‘Awesome God,’ I think” to a “candid-theologian-disguised-as-a-ragamuffin-who-I-wish-I-knew-better.”
For that reason, I’d like to offer just a small portion of S Truett Cathy’s thoughts from various sources, including interviews and his autobiography. There may be several transferable principles here for how you do ministry and so much more, but also consider the legacy he’s left behind:
- “The Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich itself was born in the wake of an unexpected opportunity. When one of my first two restaurants burned to the ground, I found myself with time on my hands and the availability to develop a new recipe…”
- “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.”
- “Put two Cows on a billboard with a bucket of paint and a brush, and they’ll create some unexpected opportunities… They remind people in their unique style to ‘Eat Mor Chikin!’ The Cows still haven’t learned to spell, and their grammar leaves a lot to be desired, but the opportunities are real. Five years after they painted their first billboard, Chick-fil-A had doubled our sales volume, achieving annual sales of more than $1 billion.”
- “We have an impact on our children by what we say, but particularly by what we do. They forget many of the things we say, but they observe everything we do. We can’t expect to keep beer in the refrigerator and expect our fifteen-year-old not to drink beer.”
- “My business grew on my understanding that customers are always looking for somebody who is dependable and polite and will take care of them.”
- “It’s better to build boys than mend men.”
- “After we make the necessary investment – buying the real estate and building the restaurant – we turn over the responsibility of running a $2 million-plus business (for a free-standing location) to these independent franchisees – many who have not yet turned thirty years old. We support them with training, technology, and anything else they need. But the bottom line depends on the Operator’s honesty, integrity, commitment and loyalty to customers and to us. We trust our Operators to make good decisions – and they do. I don’t know of another restaurant company that places so much responsibility in the hands of its franchisees.”
- “Like wealth, poverty also has the power to build us up and make us appreciate what we have, or it can break our spirits.”
- “The ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ Cows now have become more than characters in an advertisement. They’re real. Wherever I go I carry a bunch of plush Cow toys. They always make people happy, whether they’re children or adults – even workers in boots and soiled shirts. Everybody loves them. When I give one away I always ask the person to tell me what the Cows say, and hold onto it until they say, ‘Eat Mor Chikin!’”
- A reporter once asked me how I would like to be remembered. I answered, ‘I think I’d like to be remembered as one who kept my priorities in the right order. We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed, and the important things will not change if we keep our priorities in proper order.”
- “When we share our time with children, the little things often become lifetime memories for them.”
I have to say, those last two really stand out to me most.
What stands out to you?
For that matter, how out-standing are you? What do you hope to give others based on how you serve and live in this world?
I heard comedian Steve Harvey today talk about his own hope to leave a legacy. In his words, “I’ve scooped a lot of stuff off the ground so you don’t have to slide in it. I tell that to my kids all the time. ‘I just scooped enough of this crap off the ground to keep you from sliding in it.”
If you were to pass on today, what would your legacy be?
How does that compare to what do you hope your legacy be, that it might be said of you when you pass on into eternity and grasped by others around you?