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Lessons From A BBQ Sandwich

I inherited many things from my father, among them the same receding hairline and long forehead, a similar drooping grin which actually looks more like a scowl, and an affinity for Southern foods such as fried chicken, grits, and pretty much anything slathered in gravy. Like he would have done, I stayed up way too late watching the presidential election returns and, also like him, I'm obsessed with following the on-going saga. What can I say? I am Big Frank's boy.

The older I get, the more I realize something else I got from him. My father loved the American free enterprise system and he was forever fascinated by the unseen forces of supply and demand and how a person in North Dakota could produce something and it could wind up on the shelves in Georgia. He loved that a simple idea could make someone rich and that hard work and ingenuity had rewards beyond anything bestowed by governments.

All these things I reminisced on this past Friday, November 6, as I enjoyed a hickory smoked barbecue pork sandwich and some incredible Brunswick stew (Southern foods, you see?) at the Fresh Air Barbecue outside Jackson, Georgia. I dined in an open air pavilion at a wooden picnic table, separated a safe distance from others likewise enjoying the delicacies in front of them. Daddy would have loved this, I thought to myself.

The good folks at Fresh Air must have decided early on that no virus was going to keep them from continuing to serve some exceptional vittles to the world. They simply rearranged things and made it so that you remain outside to order, standing on a covered porch and then you proceed to another window, still maintaining physical distance from other patrons, and then you wait until your order is called. A mask-wearing employee, working behind plexiglass, kindly calls you forward and then a tray with your bagged food is slid out to you. "Thank you and enjoy," they call and then you either take it home or go to the large, aforementioned pavilion they've provided.

Talk about smart. Somebody figured out that it was a chore to reach out and retrieve the tray on which the food had been passed. So, they drilled a hole through the end of a red plastic tray, looped a string through it and tied a good knot and, PRESTO!, they just tug it back inside and keep on serving. Daddy would have marveled at that, and I can guarantee he would have remarked, "They ought to give a raise to whoever came up with that idea!"

They also know that folks want a clean, accessible restroom. Fresh Air has either rented, or purchased, a fancy trailer with not one but three stalls, all complete with a foot flush commode, ample soap, a motion activated sink, and a touchless hand dryer. And, it's among the cleanest bathrooms I've ever seen, including the ones I was responsible for as a custodian at Rising Star Middle School in Peachtree City a few years back.

No, they're not doing business exactly the way they have for the last 91 years. But that's not stopping Fresh Air. Ingenuity, pluck, a big smile, great food - it's no wonder the parking lot was filling up well before noon on a gorgeous Autumn Friday. And I'm not one bit surprised. Here's why.

You noticed I mentioned they've been open 91 years, right? That means they cranked up the pit back in 1929 and they haven't shut it down since. Well, something else happened in 1929 - that thing called The Great Depression started. And Fresh Air managed to get open, and stay open, through more than a decade of the worst economic challenge the United States ever faced, plus World War II.

Ingenuity, pluck, perseverance . . . there's a lesson for us all. Often, we don't get to choose our circumstances and situations, but we do get to choose how we respond to them. And surely, as believers in Jesus Christ, our responses to challenges and difficulties, to trials and tribulations, are colored by our faith in Him.

I'm headed back through Jackson on my way to a wedding later today. One guess what, and where, I'm eating for lunch?

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