When I was 16 I landed a job at the place I always wanted to work. It was the summer "hang out" spot for many kids, the place that sold the best ice cream and fried chicken in town. Little did I know that this very same job would teach me many of the life lessons I needed for my future. And little did I know that the same people who told me that I made my small cone a little "too big", got on me for not remembering to hit the "plain" or "ketchup" button on my orders, would be the same people who would have the biggest impact on my life.
At this job I was taught that sometimes the simplest things are the ones that matter most. I was taught that a little goes a long way, especially when adding flavors to a milkshake...oops. I was taught that family always comes first, and sometimes your family isn't always the ones who share the same blood as you. In the years that I worked there the traditions stayed the same, even when the times had changed. Not just the traditions of having the best milkshakes and chicken in town. Also the traditions of giving back, keeping things simple, and the basic structures of work always stayed the same. I was taught to always lend a helping hand, greet everyone with a smile, always make sure to remind my loved ones how much they mean to me, live life to the fullest, and always remember that with God all things are possible. Many people would argue that God should not be talked about or centered around at a place of work, but I think that is what made this job extra special. It was because the owners had such an amazing religious foundation and relationship with God that made it so comfortable to work for them. It was just that that brought the joy to the work place, and never did you see a customer leave with a frown on their face.
On one of my first days working there I noticed a sign that hung above the specials board that read "It's All Good", that was their motto. Three simple words that mean so much. No matter how many mistakes their employees made, no matter how much ice cream got wasted, how many times the machines got broken, or how many times an order got messed up. Their response for every mistake big or small was always "It's All Good".
Meet Pat and Jean, owners of this special staple since 1996. My adventure all started with these two. They believed in me. They’ve seen me at my rock bottom, in high school I’d think rock bottom was breaking up with a boy, a fight with my parents, having a blemish on my face. You know…things that are important to you at that age. It goes beyond that. I’m not talking about that rock bottom, I’m talking the nitty gritty, the real struggles of life. When I decided to completely change my path I had planned after I graduated, they were there- with open arms accepting and understanding – willing to help any way that they could. I moved across the country right after high school – against advice of many people. I always kept in touch, they checked in on me, made sure I was ok. I remember a specific time when I was dealing with something very rough, and Jean looked at me in the eyes and said "Sami, whatever it is, It's All Good, it will all be good". And I will never forget when my apartment burned down two years later – I called Jean and I cried – she was there. That's the rock bottom I am talking about. A few months later I was still struggling with it so I called her again and I doubt if she remembers this conversation – but I vividly remember her saying “Sami, we care…have you thought about moving back home” I gave excuses and told her it was impossible – she told me that they’d pay for my plane ticket back, hire me on immediately and pay me a competitive wage to what I was making at my job – which well exceeded their normal rate of pay. She saw my struggle, she was there, never giving up. And when I finally moved back home (8 years and many more rock bottoms later) I worked my friends coffee shop, bringing my two year old with me every day. Pat stopped by one day and saw I was struggling - I didn't have to say a word he just knew. So he took my little guy to go see the geese across the parking lot - to give me a moment to breathe. It's those moments that mean the most. Pat and Jean will always be my second parents.
It’s funny how time changes, back then we were talking about prom and telling silly stories – now I am taking photos of them and we talk about the fundamentals of life. At one time I was afraid to tell them I even stayed out past curfew, now I go out and they offer to buy me a beer. I still think of them as my second parents and that will never change. They are Still the same people, with the same sense of humor, the same foundation, who serve the same milk shakes.
The most inspiring thing to me about them is how they’ve kept their marriage so strong throughout the years. Owning a business is hard in and of itself, but what is most inspiring is how they do it together, and still act like teenagers in love. Marriage is hard on its own, it has its own battles, and its own downfalls. But it takes some real work and a really solid foundation to do both at the same time. To work with your partner, every single day, despite what’s going on at home. Trying to leave work frustrations at work. Home frustrations at home. Trying to not let it interfere. Their love completely inspires me, pushes me, and gives me hope.
Sometimes it is the simplest things or the simplest places that make the biggest impact on your life. I never imagined that back then that I would be where I am right now, looking back at my time spent there and realizing what I do now. I never would have guessed that the small, red ice cream shop would have had this much impact on my life. I will never forget their kind hearts, their loving words, and their warm hugs. There was never a day that I didn't leave with a smile on my face. There was never a day that wasn't filled with laughter. They helped mold me into the person I am today, and without them I am confident that I would not be where I am today. I thank God every day that I was given this amazing opportunity to have these loving people in my life, and for all the experiences that I gained, and memories shared at that small, red ice cream shop.
Take it from someone who’s been through probably any situation imaginable - No matter what life throws at you, just remember you have a God that is stronger and more mighty than any of the storms that life throws your way. The storm always passes, and there is always sunshine waiting for you at the other side. Never get discouraged when life doesn't seem to be going your way. God will never put one of His Children through anything they can't handle.
And always remember...."It's All Good", no matter what it is you're going through, It's All Good, it will all be good.
To Pat and Jean;
Thank you. Thank you for always being there, for being a shoulder to cry on, a friend to rely on, and never failing to make me smile. For being there for me in my times of need, praying for me, helping me succeed. I will always and forever cherish you both, and you'll never know how much all these moments and you mean to me. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I love you.