Mac & Cheese

Mike McGough
May 2023

His was a dysfunctional, single-parent family.  That was only until his mother was jailed for drug trafficking.  His Great-Grandmother took him in.  Although she loved this four-year-old and her heart was clearly in the right place, her sparse financial resources, her age, and a number of health problems, limited what she could do.  Nevertheless, she did all she could, until she fell and broke a hip.  The spring before he was to start kindergarten, he was placed in a group home.

That summer he was registered for kindergarten.  He was a bit reluctant.  His routine and his life were about to change again.  During the registration process, he was less than cooperative.  Anyone who knew his background could easily see that this was yet another change that life threw at this little guy, demanding that he adapt to situations he couldn’t begin to understand.  Even so, he got off to a good start. 

The hours that he was in school were good for him.  There was a routine, there were things he could depend on.  He began to enjoy the predictability of school; he counted on it.  Within a few weeks, there was a change in him, a good change, a change that could be seen.  He appreciated little things that many other children took for granted.  Lunch was one of those things.  By late fall, he was flourishing and about as happy as he had ever been.  That was until a day when they were serving mac and cheese for lunch. 

He was at the very back of the line.  By the time he got to the serving counter, the mac and cheese was gone, and they were serving tater tots.  The other kids who got tots rather than mac and cheese were fine with it; he wasn’t.  He took his lunch tray, sat down by himself, and cross his arms on the table, put his head on his arms, and began to cry.   

Just as he did, the principal came in to get his lunch.  He too loved mac and cheese, and he had a standing order for a bowl every time it was served.  When he saw this little guy with his head down, he went to him and asked why he was crying.  Through tears this kindergartener said, “There’s no mac and cheese for me.”  It was all the principal could do not to tear up. 

“Wait here, let me go check; I know the cook.”  When he returned, he had two small bowls of mac and cheese.  He asked this young man if he could join him.  They sat and ate together.  It’s doubtful if two guys, each in their own way, ever enjoyed mac and cheese any more than they did that day. 

When the principal asked why he liked mac and cheese so much, the little boy said, “My Grandma, used to make it for me when I lived with her.  We would sit together and eat it.  I liked that so much!”

In November the school got word that he was being adopted by a young couple.  Few things that happened during that principal’s career warmed his heart any more than that.  During the meeting when this student’s transfer to his new school was being completed, it was obvious that this kid finally caught a break.  He’d now be on a new life path!

After high school he went to culinary arts school, to become a chef.  Over the next several years he became a master chef and opened a restaurant.  It was a success.  He franchized it to form a small regional chain.  Over the next fifty-plus years, that franchise grew to 136 restaurants.  They all had the same name, Grandma’s House.

The first menu item listed in all his restaurants was “Grandma’s Mac and Cheese.”  It was corporate policy that anyone needing a meal could come to one of his restaurants and get a plate of mac and cheese and a drink—on the house, no questions asked.  At 83 he turned the restaurants over to his Grandchildren.  The attorney who finalized the transfer, asked this generous restaurateur if he knew how much money he had lost over the years giving away his mac and cheese. 

“I don’t know; I’ve never thought about it.  When I was down on my luck, mac and cheese and the people who provided it were bright spots in some dark days.  If my mac and cheese has provided one bright spot for one person having a dark day, it’s all been worth it.”

Maybe you can’t change the world, but there’s no telling the long-term impact you could have by making someone’s corner of it just a little brighter.  Do that for someone today!