Early in December, my daughter Arabella and I woke up at 5:00 AM getting ready to go to Reagan National Airport for our flight to Atlanta.
The reason for our journey was because I won an online Facebook contest from our local Chick- fil-A. I originally thought it was simply for a free dinner, which enticed me because I have so many kids; but then I received an email saying that in addition to the dinner, I had the chance to win prizes if I’d get my friends to “like” their Chick-fil-A Facebook page—so I forced all my relatives to go online and vote.
We went to the dinner and, after being well fed, I noticed a backpack full of merchandise that I was determined to win. I don’t even remember most of what was happening other than being focused on that “backpack of fun” and I especially wanted the umbrella sticking out of it. Ultimately I did win the backpack and the dialogue went like this:
Me: I won!! Thank you, thank you… OMG, I won a backpack!
Girlfriend: You won!
Me: I know!
Girlfriend: No, you won!!
Me: I know, look!!
Owner: Congratulations, you won the trip!
Me: What? What are you talking about? I got my backpack!
Both were laughing at me because apparently enough of my FB friends had voted for me to win two round-trip tickets to Atlanta, Georgia to visit the Chick-fil-A Headquarters! I really didn’t expect to win since the last time I had looked the count online showed we were behind. Our family was very happy…but who to take? I decided on Arabella since, being the third daughter, she usually gets left behind.
At the airport on the walkway, we saw a group of Chick-fil-A reps including a smiling man who was holding red balloons. The man was Mr. John Flatley, owner of Chick-fil-A and the escort for our group down to Atlanta. He was very welcoming and handed us our tickets as we headed down to our gate.
As Arabella and I were chatting, holding hands, we felt like Dora the Explorer and Boots the sidekick. Thus we told everyone our new names: I became “Dora” and she became “Boots”, which is what Mr. Flatley ended up calling us throughout our trip.
We really didn’t know what was going to happen on our adventure. What do you expect from a trip to the headquarters of a chicken joint? Were we going to a chicken farm?
The flight was a blast and the stewardesses were very welcoming to all of us winners. Our host Mr. Flatley handed out free Chick-fil-A sandwich coupons to everyone, and people throughout the plane were happy and singing and clapping.
Once we landed, we rode a tram where we met the other Chick-fil-A reps and winners. As we stepped out of the secured area, we heard cowbells clanging and entered a walkway where owners and representatives of the company (including some Chick-fil-A “Cows) were cheering us on, waving and high-fiving us as we walked past.
We felt so welcomed, overwhelmed by the sunny smiles as we were handed out snacks for our ride to the headquarters complex.
By this time we were hungry and wondering, “where’s the food?” As we walked into the building, we saw a buffet getting set up for us as they led us into a room topped with parachuting cows.
Our hosts were Mr. David Kim and his brother Mr. Peter Kim, franchise owners in Herndon and Chantilly. We proceeded to eat after a prayer and more inspirational speeches from the owner’s son, Dan Cathy and the owner himself, Mr. Truett Cathy. They spoke of how the Chick-fil-A chain was started with their entire family and how they made sure that their faith and love of Jesus Christ was always at the heart of the business. Treating others the way that you ought to treat them through the love and giving of that love in Jesus Christ. I was sincerely moved.
My daughter and I were honestly changed by our experience. I would not call it a “retreat” but it was a day away from the material world, into a world where a sincere love for giving and faith was shining through the entire day. Our family has gone through a very difficult 5 years, so to be with so many wonderful people who sincerely wished to show us God’s grace and food, led us away with a resounding reserve to keep going forward with our faith and love of Jesus Christ. I’ve sheltered my children to ensure that we are one; I was never sure if I did the right thing but after hearing Mr. Truett Cathy speaking of all his family went through during the depression, I was assured I’m on the right track.
In Mr. Truett Cathy’s office–an old man with an 18-year-old heart—we heard him speak of his mother, his brother and his best friend and the years they went through not knowing whether or not Chick-fil-A would be what it is today. As he gave my daughter a hug and told her, “Thank you for your beautiful smile and coming to see me”, my heart really burst and even she had tears in her eyes. We truly felt blessed and felt such a reprieve from the real world—and we felt loved.
The last part of the tour, we walked through a hallway of the history of Chick-fil-A and where some of their charitable donations have gone, including the personal donations of Mr. Truett Cathy. To the children who need foster care, they formed WinShape Foundations to give them homes with loving supervision and activities in sports and in the arts to give these children a chance and scholarships for colleges so they can achieve their dreams. This is in addition to the other foundations they’ve formed to help within the communities. I was truly impressed, particularly having children and at some times in my life having to wonder, what would happen to them if I could not provide?
In the final moments at the headquarters, we received one more inspirational speech from Mr. “Bubba” Cathy, who we realized we met on our way to his father’s office, when Arabella “Boots” noticed his Christmas Chick-fil-A tie. He had been kind enough to stop and let her touch it and giggle with her! He talked about how we should all move forward after our visit and to live our lives fully in our faith, and how he wished that the experience we received while there would enhance our lives because that was his father’s wish. Well it did.
After taking some group photos we headed to the original “Dwarf House” where we went through the little dwarf door and had our last meal before going to the airport.
BTW, the fried Peach Pie was absolutely to die for!!
Sadly, our adventure was at an end. We hugged and said our goodbyes when we got to the airport since others were going to different airports.
As Arabella and I got into our car, we looked at each other and decided this was our best field trip ever. The human kindness and love that we are able to give each other without any clouds involved, the pure love that Jesus wanted us to spread was infectious, delirious and wonderful. Throughout this trip, we were embraced with love and affection of the true human heart.
If there is ever a corporation I would endorse to sponsor because of their love and faith for the human people and their communities, it is truly and solely Chick-fil-A. And for the record, I am a restaurant snob; I don’t go to fast food restaurants unless we go through the drive thru—and yet we actually go inside the Chick-fil-A and sit as a family. And that is what it should be all about: family and love for each other and spreading it through the Lord, Jesus Christ, our savior.
Chick-fil-A corporate logo