A missionary companion of mine won $20,000 in a national non-fiction contest last year for writers in their 20’s, for his essay “Working at Wendy’s.” Not only is he a talented writer, but he has had a profound impact on my life through his example of hard work and humility.
I had plenty of spiritually trying times as a missionary, but the hardest time physically was the time I spent with Elder Joey Franklin in Akashi, Japan. It didn’t help that it was “hotter than Georgia in the summer” (according to my Dad who came to visit), but Franklin taught me a lot through his seemingly endless amounts of energy despite the heat. Working with him, I never slept better in my life. I also got a great farmer’s tan.
In most places I lived in Japan, we would pick out an area or neighborhood to go door-to-door, and then talk to everyone on the way there. (In smaller towns, often the only people to talk to on the way were nice old ladies pushing grocery carts. They were usually not interested in hearing the Word but sometimes gave us bananas and told us we had handsome faces). Well, with Elder Franklin, we would plan to go to a certain neighborhood, but usually didn’t make it past the corner 7-11 about 50 yards from our apartment. I don’t think any unsuspecting (or sometimes, suspecting) Japanese person got past him without at least a five minute conversation about the purpose of life.
What influenced me the most, however, was that Franklin wasn’t a robot with a name tag, (as I tended to become after getting rejected 50 times in a row or knocking on doors for four hours). He was enthusiastic about the work, and you could tell that he loved the people he talked to. In comparison, I often spent time staring at my watch, wondering when the next break was, and worrying that it would be spaghetti again for dinner. Elder Franklin, through his example, taught me to ignore the clock and immerse myself in the work. Preparing for my mission I heard the quote, “Don’t serve time, serve the Savior. Prisoners serve time, and they are miserable.” After a few days in Akashi, I ditched my watch, and tried to keep up with my fireball of a companion. Although I was only in Akashi for three weeks, Franklin’s example affected the way I worked and gave me a sense of enthusiasm that I had the rest of my time in Japan.
That’s the memory I have of him. The URL for his essay is at the end of this post. The judges of the contest said of Franklin that his essay “took us by the arm, looked us squarely in the eye, and kissed us hard on the mouth. That’s right, we’ve fallen in love with ‘Working at Wendy’s’ by Joey Franklin, and we don’t care who knows.“ At one point in the essay he writes about how he was criticized at Wendy’s for not mopping well enough; I have to wonder if his superior was on something because Franklin is the kind of person that makes you tired just watching him. When asked about what he’ll do with the money, he said it would be for the baby, for school, “and $3,000 will be spent for an engine replacement for our 1999 Ford Escort wagon, a true lemon on wheels. Then if it dies, I’ll push it into Utah Lake.”