Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Giving Back

On Monday I had the privilege to sing for the Atlanta Rotary Club. The Rotary Club is an organization of business people who meet once a week to focus on service and high ethical standards in business. They give scholarships and also give awards to members of the club or members of the community who have excelled in the Rotary principals. It was a very energetic group on Monday. I met lots of prominent Atlanta business men and women and was especially fond of the busyness of the group. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry but also seemed to be very excited to be there. These people all seemed to have such a purpose and direction and it felt as though the room was bursting with ambition and intelligence.

I was very excited to be in attendance because I got to meet and sing for two of my favorite Atlanta Companies. Truett Cathy, founder of Chic-fil-A was honored with the Legend award and the keynote speaker was Muhtar Kent, CEO of the Coca-Cola Company. For those of you who are not familiar with legends in the south, Chic-fil-A is the BEST chicken sandwich you can find. There is nothing better than a fried chicken sandwich on a buttered bun with pickles. When I come home from a long time of travel, the first meal I have is a Chic-fil-A meal with a large sweet tea. It just tastes of home! I even know exactly how many Weight Watcher points a Chic-fil-A sandwich has and you may be surprised, but it isn’t that many! As for the legend of Coca-Cola, I don’t need to really say too much, after all as Mr. Kent declared, “Coca-Cola is the most recognized term in the world only next to the word, Okay.” However, I have a fond connection to Coca-Cola in my family because my Grandfather worked at our local pharmacy in Lincolnton for years which meant he also ran the soda counter. It was one of those old soda counters you might see on Happy Days episodes. He told us stories of how Coca-Cola used to be mixed there in the store and that it was created by an Atlanta pharmacist much like himself. He could remember his first Coke and he collected old Coke bottles and Coke memorabilia that I have since inherited. I even have the old Coca-Cola sign that hung at my Great Grandfathers country store. The Scott Grocery part is very faded but the red and white Coca-Cola part looks nearly brand new. If you grew up in the South and especially in Georgia, you grew up drinking Coca-Cola.

I was very inspired by Monday’s meeting. Here I was, a Georgia girl, singing opera for some of the largest companies in the South and world and getting to meet people like Mr. Cathy and Mr. Kent. This is one of the things I love about what I do! The most inspirational part of the meeting was when Mr. Truett Cathy received his Legend award. He is 88 years old and quite a character. He thanked the Rotary Club for such an honor and said something I found to be very profound. He said, in a very beautiful southern accent, “I had the privilege to grow up in poverty and now the joy to have wealth and I enjoy sharing it with others.” Wow. The privilege of poverty. Let that one sink in your brain for a moment. Here is a man who embodies the American dream. Here is a man who took his lemons and made lemonade!!! He grew up in poverty, worked hard, and became the founder of the chicken sandwich and one of the best fast food restaurants ever. I love his story and I invite you to read about all of the wonderful things he has done with his success. He has given scholarships galore and created the Winshape Foudation which supports a variety of programs, including a long-term foster care program, a summer camp for more than 1,900 kids each year, a scholarship program in conjunction with Rome, Ga.- based Berry College, and marriage enrichment retreats. Another remarkable aspect of the Chic-fil-A company is that it has never opened on Sunday. That day is a time for the employees of Chic-fil-A to spend with their families, rest, or go to church. Think of all the money Mr. Cathy could make on Sundays which is one of the busiest days for the fast food industry during the week. For him, it wasn’t about money. I wish more companies would follow his leadership and give back to their employees in this way. I also love it when I go to Chic-Fil-A and say “Thank you” to an employee. They respond with a hearty, “My pleasure!” I have never received bad service at a Chic-Fil-A restaurant. Take a moment and read about Mr. Cathy's business principles and quotes about life. My favorite is, "Nearly every moment of every day we have the opportunity to give something to someone else – our time, our love, our resources. I have always found more joy in giving when I did not expect anything in return.”

After the meeting I found Mr. Cathy and asked him if I could have my picture taken with him. He was delighted and told me that he truly enjoyed my singing. He said he didn’t have any talent and that it had skipped him in his family. I told him that he clearly must have used his talents elsewhere! He then asked me if I knew the song, The Impossible Dream. He said it was his favorite. I can see why. If I ever get to sing for Mr. Cathy again I will be sure to prepare that song. Thank you Mr. Cathy for all of your hard work and dedication to others and for being an inspiration to me.

Above photo: Craig Kier, pianist, Leah Partridge, soprano, S. Truett Cathy, founder of the most delicious chicken sandwich and great Humanitarian

No comments: