This past Tuesday, I had the opportunity to visit a delightful restaurant in Columbus, Ohio–Hot Chicken Takeover. If you’re ever in the area, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Monday afternoon, my videographers had recommended Hot Chicken Takeover for dinner after discovering my favorite cold drink was sweet tea. They shared how the service was incredible, and they served southern comfort food.
On a cold, wet day, I had my mind and heart set on trying this place out after my last presentation. However, as I walked up the stairs of the North Market, my shoulders slumped slightly…the sign read “Closed at 3 PM.” Bummed.
Oh well, it was my mission for the next day during lunch.
It All Goes Back to the “Why”
Tuesday morning, my Uber driver asked if I had anything in mind for lunch. I quickly said I’m headed to Hot Chicken Takeover. I was sold out on it serving comfort food and free refills of sweet tea.
He asked me, “Do you know their story? The purpose of the owner opening the restaurant?”
No, but I’m dying to know more. Please do tell.
He gave me an abbreviated version of the company’s purpose. As I sat in the backseat of the car, I Googled the REAL story behind HCT.
That’s when I read this. Joe, the owner, defines his vision for Hot Chicken Takeover as,
“HCT’s about more than just chicken. It’s about our people. Beyond an amazing community of customers, HCT provides supportive jobs to men and women who need a fair chance at work. Be it homelessness, previous incarceration, or another barrier to employment, HCT employees are wildly ambitious and have set their sights on what’s next. Once hired, we support their financial stability, personal growth, and professional development with an array of benefits.”
Fighting back the tears, I KNEW I had to make time to visit for lunch.
Right Place At the Right Time
As soon as I walked in, I was beaming. The cashier greeted me with, “Hey sweetie, what can I do for you?” In fact, every worker there welcomed me with a smile and a friendly statement. They even gave me free banana pudding for being a “first timer.” Side Note: It is heaven in your mouth! The longer I sat there and devoured my mouth-watering meal, I could feel my heart being squeezed with empathy. This is exactly where I needed to be at this specific moment.
Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
On November 16th, several years ago, my dad’s life was violently stripped from him. A series of poor choices on both parties had led to the wrong place at the wrong time and ultimately ended in a tortuous nightmare–that still lives in the heart and mind of this girl, even today.
However, that part, I’ve dealt with over the years and am still attempting to manage. But, this year, 2017, marked the year the man who took my dad’s life would have an opportunity for a parole hearing. Which meant, if he accomplished the necessary responsibilities required, he might get a second chance at this thing called life.
While I don’t get to make these types of decisions, I’ve struggled with the idea of this man–whose poor choices haunt me daily–getting a second chance.
To be honest, I’ve thought about it on and off since January 1, 2017.
*E in R.E.A.L.- Expose a Little Vulnerability…Ok, this one might be a lot.
Hope and 2nd Chances
But after empathy gently squeezed my heart while visiting Hot Chicken Takeover, I realized my mind had been closed to this tragic circumstance. Everyone deserves another chance to be successful. As I looked around and smiled-to-the-ears at the service I was provided, I fought back more tears. The workers were excited to be there. They truly loved their job, and they made everyone that walked in feel as if they were part of the HCT-family. I don’t know all of their REAL stories, but it didn’t matter. I felt like a part of their community from the first helping of banana pudding. (Yes, they gave me a second helping to take on my flight home–and it made it through security.)
The point is–no matter what the circumstance, beautiful things can come out of yucky situations. And, everyone deserves hope and a second chance.
Isn’t that what I “preach” in the school setting with students and adult learners? Why had I been so closed-minded dealing with this particular circumstance? It’s not the norm for me. But in this situation…I have struggled.
Thank you, Hot Chicken Takeover “family” for warming my heart and providing me hope and a new perspective. Your smiles and hospitality lit a candle in a dark alley of my life; you are making a difference.