By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Three juveniles girls who were caught vandalizing the home of Truett Cathy, founder of the billion-dollar fast food chain, Chick-Fil-A, received a most unusual “penalty” for their crime – mercy.
Cathy, a devout Christian, who has devoted most of his life to mentoring young people, knew that spending time in an institution would do the girls no good. Even though they did more than $30,000 damage to his home, an amount they could never hope to pay back, he decided to make an agreement between the girls and their parents. The agreement involves writing a 1,000 sentence assignment, restriction from TV and video games for six months, the reading of good books, and other terms to be overseen by their parents.
“It was mercy on my part, but I never thought about having those little kids jailed,” Cathy told the media. “The courts weren’t the place for them … that would just take them downstream even further. It would be better, hopefully, to put these restrictions on them and see if they carry through (with) this.”
In addition to building a billion dollar fast food empire, Cathy, now 86 years old, has spent the last fifty years teaching adolescents in Sunday School, and nearly twenty-five years working to inspire young people through the Winshape Foundation, which offers many programs to influence the lives of under-privileged young people such as a long-term foster care program, a summer camp, and scholarships.
He claims his philosophy is not to let young people off the hook for their behavior, but to teach them that it’s a “do-it-yourself world” that comes with rewards or consequences according to the decisions one makes. Cathy hopes that’s what this form of punishment will do for the three juvenile girls.
“To (help them) realize that they know the difference between right and wrong, and if they make good decisions they get good results, and if they make bad decisions, they get bad results,” he said.
Cathy, who is listed on Forbes Magazine’s list of the 400 richest Americans, is a humble man from Georgia who says his only goal in life was to provide a life for his family.
“I feel that the dad is the chief executive officer of the business, of the home, the main teacher. It’s too bad that we get other things separating us from caring for the people we love which is the children. That attention is very important,” he told NBC News in Augusta, Georgia.
“A lot of unexpected opportunities came my way to be sensitive to God’s dealing with you. Things I don’t understand, how I reached the point I am today because I wasn’t all that smart in school and did not get highly educated, but I had a lot of ‘want to’ and it takes a lot of ‘want to,’ a lot of commitment to do your best.”
Cathy tells young people there are three goals in life they need to figure out in order to determine their success; who will be their “master,” what will be their “mission” and who they will choose for a “mate.”
“God surprised me a lot. The decisions He made for me, circumstances I didn’t count on at all. Certainly I didn’t count on having a chain of restaurants because after I had two, I realized I had one too many then. But I’ve been fortunate to have good people around me…to manage it all,” he said.
This faith-filled Christian man is one of the few restaurant owners in America who refuses to work on Sundays. The Chick-Fil-A chain is closed on the Sabbath to allow employees the day off to rest and worship.
Cathy is retired now and lives in the Atlanta area with his wife of more than 50 years, Jeannette, while his two sons run the company he spent a lifetime building.
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