Trudy Cathy White, the daughter of Chick-fil-A's founder S. Truett Cathy and his wife, Jeannette, has shared the life lessons she learned from her father – and why she believes her family is in the "people business" – not the chicken business.
White, a Christian entrepreneur, speaker and former International Mission Board missionary, recently released her memoir, titled Climb Every Mountain: Finding God Faithful in the Journey of Life. In the book, White shares how God has sustained her through her own struggles and encourages readers to have great faith in all seasons of life.
In an exclusive interview with The Gospel Herald, White described growing up in a "fun, loving, happy home" in Georgia. Raised on a farm with two brothers, White said that from a young age, her parents instilled in her the importance of living a life of service – and taught her that faith plays an important role in every facet of life.
"One of the things I learned from my parents is that faith plays out in every walk of life; it's not just isolated to your home, it's a part of work and community. It's foundational," she shared. "As children, we each had to wrestle with our own faith walk in terms of giving Jesus control of our lives. We had to make that decision for ourselves. I understood His love for me and the importance of following Him thanks to my parent's example."
At the age of 19, White convinced her father to let her run a Chick-fil-A restaurant. Every day, she said, her father would remind her that it's "better to give than to receive" – and serving others is more important than personal gain.
"My Dad would always tell me, 'If you will help others get what they want in life, you'll get what you want out of life,'" she recalled. "In other words, he was telling me, 'Trudy, get your eyes off of yourself and focus on the needs of those around you; how can you help others find what they want in life?' We were created to do for others, and my father really understood that."
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The founder of Chick-fil-A, S. Truett Cathy died at 93 on September 8, 2014. (AP)
Another biblical idea her father emphasized, White said, was that a "good name is better than riches." Today, that principle remains a driving force behind Chick-fil-A.
"We feel that's a way we honor God through what we have," White said. "Our purpose is to glorify God and be a faithful steward and be a positive impact on all who come to contact with our restaurant. Our priorities in the business world are to glorify God in how we steward what He gives us and our influence on others. That's spilled over into our lives. My parents taught me how to live and die well."
"We believe," she added, "that we're primarily in the people business, not the chicken business. We want to make a difference in the lives of everyone who walks through our doors."
It was at that very same Chick-fil-A restaurant that White met her future husband, John. The two eventually built their home on a mountaintop in suburban Atlanta and reared four children together.
They later served as missionaries on Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as IMB missionaries. Together, they founded, LifeShape and Impact 360 Institute, improve the lives of children and adults internationally.
"My parents instilled in me the belief that we are here to glorify God with all that we've been given, and that's something I have tried to live out my entire life," she shared.
(Photo : Chick-fil-A)
White told GH that she felt it was time to share her life story and empower others to live a life of faithfulness. In her memoir, she tackles such topics as identity, godly parenting, leaving a legacy, overcoming adversity, and coping with grief.
"My parents overcame significant challenges in life; my father was born with a severe speech impediment, and in my own life we've had many challenges," she said. "A Christian life doesn't mean an easy life, and life is tough. But, the only true hope is found through a relationship with Christ, and I'm so thankful my parents taught me that."
In a society where anxiety, fear, and uncertainty seem to be rising exponentially, White hopes her book offers the much-needed reminder that God is faithful – even in the darkest times.
"When I go through my struggles, I ask, 'Does anybody else have to deal with this? Am I alone?" she admitted. "But you're never alone. There is a good God who is walking through it all right alongside you."
"Readers will hear my story and realize I have difficulties just like everyone else, and if people will look to Him, they will find God faithful in every mountain, that He's a great source of strength. 'I will lift my eyes up to the mountains' – I love that verse. I think that it's incredible to be able to learn that God uses al the trials in life to produce tools, and our greatest tool is reliance on Him."
For more information on Climb Every Mountain, visit TrudyCathyWhite.com.