Comment from National Organizer Tricia Dykers Koenig: My family knows that Chick-fil-A is my favorite fast food: standard sandwich, cole slaw (they can keep the waffle fries). I was delighted once, having gotten lost somewhere in the vicinity of the Atlanta airport, to stumble across the original restaurant, where I got my food standing in the usual line but found, in the dining room, tables covered with actual tablecloths, served by a cheerful woman offering to refill my sweet tea from a pitcher. I admire their commitment to close on Sundays. Still, I will not be indulging again unless they change their practice of supporting organizations that cause harm to the LGBT community (and thereby to all of us, of course), since I do not want my money subsidizing attitudes and actions that violate my convictions.
Jean Reinhold is an amazing artist, a magnificent preacher, a teacher, a ruling elder at Forest Hill Church, Presbyterian, where I am privileged to be Parish Associate.
Here’s Jean’s reflection:
CHICK-FIL-A (my take): Amidst the fury brewing on both sides of the debate, I decided to go to what has always been “My Chick-fil-A” on Harvard Road today. Not to eat, but to talk with the manager. The woman greeted me cordially, as they always do there (a quality I really like in their team), and welcomed a conversation with me.
I asked if people had shown up on August 1st. How many. What they said and did. (And, pretty much, she confirmed what the news is reporting). Then I asked about this particular Chick-fil-A: who owns it, what this store’s hiring practices are. She said that they have hired and serve LGBT people all of the time. Then I asked her about her week, how it’s gone since the news broke. She said that she’s worn out. By the in-store hubbub, but also because she has a company sticker on her car and people have been honking in support of her store or, alternatively, flipping her off all week. Additionally, this debate has an impact on her immediate family and she been involved in difficult discussion for days on end. I asked if people work there because they are supporting “Christian values” or if people just work there because it’s good training. She said both.
Then I asked her why she worked there and she said that she loves to train new team members. She loves to show them how to be hospitable when they greet the client, serve the client, and check in on the clients as they eat. She likes to train young people in how they can politely communicate with clients. (Trust me, Chick-fil-A is far and beyond the most overtly engaging and warm fast food place around. In fact I have always wished many more service companies would follow their paradigm.) As you may know, employees answer every request with “my pleasure” and, honestly, I like that. I really do.
I know that people lined up to support Mr. Cathy on August 1st — it was a record setting day. And then, there was a same-sex kissing retort on August 3rd. I bet very few of the lined-up people have talked with any of the kissing people. And vice versa. Ever. That’s my point.
Whether they know it or not, everyone knows a gay person. Everyone’s life has been positively impacted by someone who is gay — a teacher, a doctor, a dentist, a hospice worker. There are millions of gay people living in God’s loving covenant. Throngs of gay Christians worship a compassionate God. The only way for me to help people understand that, and know who I am, is by meeting me. Stories change minds.
So, here’s my bottom line. Mr. Cathy can say what he wants, he can make donations to whatever charities he chooses, he can close his stores on Sundays to celebrate the Sabbath (even if he is a day off). I can choose to eat there or not. I can choose to speak against his statements or not. I can make donations to other organizations that believe in equal rights for all people (which I am). I can choose to go to a church that has a whole different take on what it means to be Christian (and I do). But, most of all, what I call for is an end to anonymous, media-driven, sound-bite discourse.
Let’s talk, people. If you disagree with me, fine. Talk with me. If I disagree with you, welcome having a conversation with me. Do what that manager and I did today. Share your story. Stop shouting infuriating comments to and about groups of nameless people – both sides. Stop, talk, listen.
Chick-fil-A is more than the president who owns it. It’s franchise owners, and managers and team members, too. When I ended the conversation with the Harvard manager today, I said, “Thank you for speaking with me.” She said, “My pleasure.” And you know what, I believe her. 100%.