- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
For a patron of the La Plata Chick-fil-A, service did not stop once she left the restaurant.
Autumn McMahan was traveling from her North Carolina home to visit family in Delaware on Nov. 20 the Tuesday before Thanksgiving when she stopped at the restaurant with her two children. At the time, McMahan’s youngest child was sick, and while in the restaurant became fussy. In a rush to leave, McMahan left a diaper bag with her wallet in it dangling on a chair and proceeded on her trip north unaware until she discovered it was missing Wednesday evening.
“I had looked everywhere for it. I went through the whole car, and then I distinctly remembered last seeing it on the chair at Chick-fil-A,” McMahan said. “I called the restaurant, and the person I spoke with immediately offered to deliver it. I said, ‘Oh, you don’t want to do that, I’m in Delaware now,’ and so I gave my address and they said they would FedEx it. I didn’t expect to have it back until Monday.”
Wednesday evening, McMahan spent several hours in the emergency room at a local hospital with her son. The next morning, Thanksgiving Day, an exhausted McMahan was preparing to spend the day with family when there was a knock at the door.
“I was at my sister-in-law’s house, and we just looked at each other and said, ‘Who could that possibly be?’ and I just expected it to be a deliveryman,” McMahan said.
The reality was much different: McMahan opened the door to see John Flatley, the owner of the La Plata Chick-fil-A, standing on the doorstep with her diaper bag in his hand.
“I was absolutely just dumbfounded,” McMahan said. “I mean, what sort of person does that? It just so exceeded my expectations that someone would go above and beyond in that way. He had to have driven four hours, over toll roads and bridges, just to get it to me. I just thought it was nice that they had offered to even FedEx it.”
A week later, McMahan posted her story on the restaurant’s Facebook fan page, not expecting it to receive much publicity and simply wanting to share the story of a good deed.
The response was overwhelming.
As of Thursday morning, the post had received 5,209 likes, more than twice the amount of fans of the page, and 378 comments.
“I didn’t think it would get that much attention,” McMahan said. “I don’t use Facebook very often, and I think that was probably the first thing I’ve ever posted on a fan page wall. I was so glad to see how many people read it, and how many people want to just pay this good deed forward.”
Despite going above and beyond in this way, Flatley is modest and even deferential about his actions.
“This was a mom and her children, and she needed that bag. It just made sense,” Flatley said. “It’s just the way that we think here. It’s just what people do. I think any of my friends would have done the same thing. I’d do it again.”
Flatley said he is equally surprised by the attention that McMahan’s story has received.
“I’m reading the comments, and I’m encouraged by the people who say that they would do the same thing, or that this has inspired them to want to do something similar,” Flatley said.
McMahan’s story struck a personal chord with Flatley, who recalled a time when he was traveling to Philadelphia with his girlfriend at the time, and had car troubles along the way. A stranger from New Jersey and his family picked them up and drove them home, three hours out of their way.
“I remember asking him, ‘What can I do to repay you?,’” Flatley said. “He told me to just pay it forward one day and do the same thing for someone else in need when given the chance. I think God puts you in places where people need you.”
Another Chick-fil-A of La Plata employee, manager Ben Hanson, said he was not surprised by Flatley’s actions.
“That’s just who John is,” Hanson said. “He’s always willing to go above and beyond for anyone who needs it.”