There’s a woman at the Chick-fil-A on Magnolia that everybody seems to know.
She’s the hostess on weekdays, and her job is to make sure everybody feels comfortable, even during the busiest lunch hours.
Spend a few minutes talking with her and you might hear about her beloved husband; spend a few days, and you’ll witness her abiding faith in God; spend a year and a half, and you might learn almost everything about the life she’s lived, and a little bit about yourself as well.
Clearice Roney was born in 1962 in Guin, Alabama, a town of about 3000 people. She got her associate’s degree in upholstery at Southern Union, but she had already begun working restaurant jobs around age thirteen
It may be hard to believe, but in the 1970s, she lived a rough-and-tumble lifestyle, following the Grateful Dead on tour and ending up in Southern California. It wasn’t until she was 24 that she converted to Christianity, which is now the foundation of her personality. Her grandmother taught her Bible stories as a child, but she passed away when Roney was nine, and from that point on she never went to church.
That all changed after one harrowing night, when Roney said she felt the spirit moving. She recently recounted the story after a long day of bussing tables and fixing drinks, and the joy in her voice was palpable.
“I was in San Diego, as far from God as I could be,” she said, “and I felt the Lord was near me. I heard His voice speaking –– audibly. Ever since then, I’ve been pursuing Him, and He’s helped me every step of the way.”
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Later, she met her husband, and they married in 1987. Once again, Roney saw the hand of the Almighty at work. “The first time I met him, somebody pointed him out to me, and I said ‘Are you crazy? He’s not my type at all,’” she recalled. “Six months later, we were married.”
Three years later, they moved to the Auburn-Opelika area. Roney has done many different jobs in Auburn, but she’s been at Chick-fil-A since April 2016.
"I wanted to do something that would bless my mother, my church, and my husband,” she said. “When I make friends with somebody, I’ve got the gift of making them feel comfortable.” That’s part of the reason that she loves working at Chick-fil-A –– it gives her the opportunity to make differences in the everyday lives of the people around her.
“The Chick-fil-A Second Mile service philosophy meshes well with my convictions,” she said. There are more examples of this than anybody could count. Once, Roney helped walk a woman’s children out to her car, and stopped one from being hit by an oncoming vehicle. Sometimes, the good deeds are simple acts of kindness, like helping an elderly lady open salt packets or listening to a student after a rough day.
“The people I meet are mostly students,” said Roney. “Both God-fearing Christians and people trying to find their direction in life. And I love them both the same."
When asked how many students she knew by name, she said that she mostly knew people by face –– however, she then proceeded to immediately rattle off a list of over a dozen names, often commenting on majors and hometowns. She said that she uses tricks to remember names, like creating acronyms or puns, and if she ever forgets one, she listens when the orders are called out at the counter.
There’s no telling how many people Roney has comforted and prayed for in the past 18 months as a hostess. One story she’s fond of recalling involves the healing of a woman’s deaf granddaughter.
"I saw an elderly lady with a sad look on her face, so I went up and asked her if she was okay,” Roney said. “The woman said, ‘It’s my granddaughter. She’s just a baby, and they say she was born deaf.’ I told her anything is possible through God, and we prayed together. A few months later, she came back in and told me that her granddaughter’s hearing had been restored.”
Besides the daily interactions with the Auburn community, Roney loves the freedom to be herself at Chick-fil-A. She said that the company itself is compassionate and giving, and they try hard to make their customers feel like guests.
“I believe God has me there to make everyone’s day just a little bit brighter,” she said. “When people open up, you can help them. I’m thankful to be at a job where I can do just that.”
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