Truett Cathy sitting in a rocking chair


One man's firsthand lessons from Truett Cathy

It’s impossible to measure how many people’s lives have been touched by Truett Cathy. In the simplest of ways, if you walk into a Chick-fil-A tomorrow and a team member smiles and says “my pleasure,” you are witnessing the legacy of the Chick-fil-A founder’s kindness.

A servant at heart, Cathy’s desire to care for others extended beyond his restaurants. Along with his wife Jeannette, he founded WinShape Homes, a fostering program that gives families to children in need. Though he was never able to attend college himself, he started a scholarship program for restaurant team members in 1973, and this year alone the program will award $4.9 million. We could fill an entire page with his acts of generosity – and another with the personal stories from the people he met along the way.

Take Jeff Manley, for example. His connection to Cathy made a profound difference in his life – and he wanted to share his story with the world. Manley is the general manager of The Rock Ranch, a 1,500-acre cattle ranch and agritourism destination for kids and families about an hour outside of Atlanta. It was founded by Cathy in 1989, although his friendship with Manley began many years before.

On what would have been Cathy’s 96th birthday, Manley penned a Facebook post that went viral. In it, he recounted his friendship with Cathy that started as a gesture for someone in need and grew into a lifelong bond between the two men.

Here is an excerpt from Manley’s Facebook post. You can go to his Facebook page to read it in its entirety:

A Life Spent in Third Place

“When I was 12, I met this old dude. He was short and hadn’t much hair. He would talk to me as I swept floors and dusted shelves in a pharmacy in Jonesboro called K’s Drugs. He pestered me relentlessly until I agreed to go to church with him. He taught a Sunday school class for thirteen-year-old boys. I don’t remember any of his lessons but I remember well that if we met certain attendance goals, or memorized our Bible verse, or just happened to be in church on the right day; he would take us to his farm in the panhandle of Clayton county, feed us lunch, usually Kentucky Fried Chicken because they were open on Sundays, and he let us ride his 25 or so motorcycles up and down terraced pastures overlooking a huge Flint Rive- formed swamp. Of course, the motorcycle thing was a carrot to get us to attend church - it worked. He was a cool old guy. What he lacked in hair and height, he made up in sincerity, heart and an intuitive wisdom that I have never known in another…

He taught me all about being third. Truett lived by a principle that never put himself first or second. First place, he reserved always and forever for God. God is first. Truett’s second place was always held for others. His family, church, employees, neighbors, and friends, they came in second… Truett Cathy made me feel like the most important person in his life. Nope, as it turns out, I wasn’t that special at all. I just happened to be second to an amazing man who dedicated his life and perfected being third. Thank you Truett for teaching us what can be accomplished by living a life in third place.”

Tagged In: WinShape Truett Cathy Rock Ranch Jeff Manley