A positive attitude may not solve all your problems but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. – Herm Albright
On a recent trip out of town I was making my way back to Kansas City with a stop in Atlanta. Although my family and I have made our home in the Midwest for the past eight years, I was raised in the South and often miss its culture and soul. I was reminded of the South’s optimistic spirit during my brief layover at Hartsfield-Jackson International.
With about an hour between flights, I walked Concourse B looking for a quick lunch before boarding the Delta flight home. I wanted to take advantage of my time in the South and was looking for something familiar and comfortable to eat. When I saw the Popeye’s Chicken sign I knew I had found it.
Fried chicken is hard to beat. Good fried chicken is even better. Popeye’s has both. I took my spot at the back of the line and began to study the menu. I decided on a combo meal – a two-piece dinner (a breast and a wing) with a side order of red beans and rice.
When it was my turn to order, I was met by a woman who radiated unexpected warmth, genuine kindness and a tremendous positive attitude.
“Hey Sugar,” she beamed over the glass case holding the fried chicken, “how you doing today?”
Her greeting took me by surprise. Her energy and enthusiasm seemed out of place and was unexpected. She was happy. She held long, greasy tongs in her hand like an orchestra conductor’s baton instructing the hungry and irritable travelers to be happy, too.
After telling her what I wanted to eat, she plunged the tongs into the piles of chicken and moved from piece to piece. In a way, I think she knew the pieces I would enjoy most. After turning several pieces over, she settled on just the right ones.
“What’s your side order today Baby?”
To be called “Baby,” from an elder in the South is a respectful and affectionate expression. It was a generous compliment to receive from such a dignified woman.
Coming from this gracious woman, I’m sure it meant something like:
I know you don’t know me, and I don’t know you, but at this moment our lives have crossed paths and I have been charged with the responsibility of taking care of you, and taking care of you to the best of my ability.
Therefore, you are worth the effort for me to find just the right pieces of chicken. I know it’s just lunch at a fast-food restaurant in an airport, but since I’m here doing this, I’m going to make the most of it, and I will do it to the best of my ability.
Imagine our world; image our lives, if everyone we encountered had this same positive attitude. Imagine how remarkable our own lives would be if we demonstrated this kind of passion and commitment. Imagine the success we could achieve if we were just as fully engaged in everything we did and said.
This woman had every right to be surly and rude. Standing on her feet for long periods of time in front of hot chicken fryers and dealing with impatient customers, she chose to smile instead. She chose to make my day brighter with her care and smile. She chose to give me a side order of positive attitude, too.
Sometimes we don’t need to read self-help books, inspirational blogs, or attend seminars to figure out how to live a rich and rewarding life, we just have to be lucky enough to have it modeled for us when we least expect it.