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while seeking joy…


Shake it off…

Kurt and I had both caught a case of the mulligrubs and it was not fun…not good. It seemed we were frustrated at the little things and the little things felt like big things. We were fussy and fussing and recognized we were in need of change. We were just having one of our Sacred Sunday Evening Couch Talks…If that couch could talk…when I made us both a challenge…it seemed our joy was depleting and we were in need of a jump start.

“The first person to have 5 people ask you why you’re so happy, or where your joy comes from, or simply comment on your kind disposition..wins.”  Wins what? We would decide later…but the challenge was set and agreed upon…this was a contest to see which one of us “appears more joyful” while out in the world. We have both grown so much in our relationship with Christ, we never miss church, we pray together, read together…yet there was an unshakeable heaviness that needing shaking.

The next morning I got ready and pointed my car in the direction of the church. We thought it would be good for me to get out of the house and go volunteer. I knocked on the office doors but no answer…hmmmmm. Hello? I’m here to be a part of something bigger. Knock, knock….I need to shake the blues…Anyone home? Oh well…probably in a meeting or closed on Sundays…I’ll come back tomorrow.

Before going home, I stop at the Sonic just down the road to get a cocktail…a large water, extra ice, add diet cherry flavor and a lime wedge.

I push the red button and place my order when suddenly I see this electric bundle of contagious joy skating around like Kristi Yamaguchi…


Was it celebrity week? Is this a fundraiser? Is she famous? She’s gotta be famous.

She approaches my car, hands me my water and repeats my order to make sure they got it correct…

“Large Water, extra ice, add diet cherry and a lime?!”

Yes…but, who are you? What are you doing here? Why are you so happy?! 

Bless her heart.  My words were blunt with curiosity as I look up from my humble ride and want to know more.  I take my water, ask a couple of questions, give her my number and ask her to text me if she would allow me to interview her.

The root of why I noticed her will come later in the story…

This is not the first time I’ve hit on strangers in the name of journalism. In my first blog, If You Give A Mom A Camera I had plans to write a memoir called, People I Met While Searching For Myself…. I  was blessed to meet some beautiful people with beautiful directions to the incredible lives they were living…Mrs. Cole in the waiting room of a doctor’s office in Midland…Joe the homeless man on the streets of Austin that was selling children’s books and told me about God…Johny Baby the antique salesman and former motorcycle gang member who had  a copy of Jesus Calling next to the pistol on his desk.

I get a text that afternoon.

And here we are.

Meet Amanda.

amanda 4

I am a part of a first- and second-generation Puerto Rican family. I was raised in the Catholic school system, and attended college at Southeastern Louisiana University where I discovered my love for the field of social work. I have worked since I was 16 years old, with Sonic as my first job, and I am currently doing so as I prepare to begin graduate school at Tulane University in January 2018. ~Amanda

Amanda Cherie Lally. She’s only 22.  These are things you say when you’re in your forties …We say words like “just” and “only” and “so young” when we speak of anyone born before Cheers went off the air. Babies. All of them.

Hi Amanda…Why Sonic?

Working at Sonic has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. This sounds silly because Sonic seems like just a fast food part-time job, but it has actually been a place of support and encouragement for me during the past 5.5 years. I genuinely look forward to working with my coworkers and getting to talk to multitudes of people throughout my various shifts. But I couldn’t imagine a better fitting part-time job for me than being a skating carhop at sonic.

Have you worked anywhere else?

Since the summer before my senior year of high school when I first started at Sonic, I’ve worked multiple jobs alongside being a carhop. I was a hostess and cashier at John’s Seafood in Hammond, which was my first, 2nd job during college. I was a nanny and babysat for different families throughout the rest of my college career. I tried waitressing for the first time at the Melting Pot…needless to say, nothing was as enjoyable as my job at Sonic.

What is the best and worst part of your job?

The best part of my job is being able to interact with so many different kinds of people on a daily basis. I am an extrovert and thrive in a social environment, but I also appreciate observing various types of cultures and personalities in which I come in contact every day.

The worst part of my job is being the vessel in which people release their frustration with other things their life that have nothing to do with me.

Can you tell me about an unforgettable customer:

I can sit here and try to think about a customer that has left an undeniable impact on me, but the customers that come to mind are the ones I interact with daily.  I have many regulars to whom I pay attention to detail during our exchanges. Some examples include: the financial planner who likes to have his breakfast burritos folded on both sides; the man who gets an orange slush every day and brings me socks sometimes; the teacher who gets a junior burrito and a large Diet Coke every day; the woman who never wants to upgrade her medium sweet tea to a large (even though it’s cheaper to do so); and the woman who is always my first customer in the morning, asking for five large cups of ice, two straws, some mints, and always requesting that I bring her back $3.35 in coins so she can use the quarters at the vending machine during her lunch break.

In reality, the unforgettable customer is the one in which I begin to learn more about their life than just the Sonic order. Everyone has a story… The challenge is trying to remember that in the fast-paced atmosphere of the service industry.

What challenges you?

plannerI challenge myself. I am a hard-core perfectionist who deals with anxiety and depression even though I can be seen smiling during the majority of my day. I have had to overcome the internal turmoil of negative self-thoughts, which are greatly derived from my difficulty to separate my worth from my actions (i.e. my successes and failures). I am comfortable in situations in which I know how to do well; because of this, I have shied away from new experiences and things which makes me feel like I don’t have control.  However, I have undergone immense self-discovery over the last couple of years in episodes of emotional breakdowns and multiple sessions of therapy with a couple different counselors, and I am happy to say that I am the healthiest I have been in my entire life. I challenge myself to keep going…to keep growing and learning, but to keep forgiving myself when I mess up because I know that I’m trying my best and that’s what matters most.

Who inspires you?

When I think of who inspires me, I tend to think about the people closest to me.                

My mother has overcome years of financial burdens to stay dedicated to her children; she always found a way to provide what we needed and even what we wanted in some way, shape or form. She has always taught me that if there is a will, there is away.

My father comes from a strenuous childhood and young adult life; it hurts me to think of all the emotional pain he has an endured, and I have tried to remember that whenever he doesn’t say the right things or act/react in the right way.

My grandmother moved to the United States from Puerto Rico when she was in her early 20s, and I can’t imagine the amount of strength she needed in order to adapt to a totally different lifestyle.

My boyfriend’s family came to the United States from Iran when he was only a child; Kasra and his family had to learn English, a new way of life, and they even built Denham Patty, their family restaurant, from the ground up. Denham Patty is still successful today, even though Kasra and his family have moved on since Mr. Khalili passed in 2013 due to cancer.

My sister inspires me because she loves so deeply. Her and I are similar in our struggles with anxiety and depression, but she has always made sure to take care of me even when I had difficulty taking care of myself. She is only 18, yet she is so wise beyond her years. Her sense of empathy is overwhelming, and sometimes even uncomfortable for her, but she never ceases to keep trying her best to positively affect others.

 Sheila, one of my best friends, recently found out her son has cancer. It has been one of the most stressful times of her life, on top of her journey to go back to college and get her bachelor’s degree in social work.  Regardless of all the obstacles she has previously faced in her life, she continues to be a light in my life, even through her own pain, and I am amazed at her ability to persist.

What inspires me are the stories behind everyone’s faces and names. One of my favorite quotes:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

The stories I learn inspire me everyday to understand that life isn’t just about me, but is much bigger than myself.

What wakes you up early and keeps you up late?

My alarm wakes me up early…or my puppy Mary Jane, but I don’t mind because she has brought so much joy into my life since I found her in May.

amanda and mj




Spending time with my family or friends keeps me up late…spending quality time with the man I hope to be my partner in life. We watch TV shows and movies, laugh and play with MJ, and talk about our thoughts, our dreams, and what we want in our life together. I never feel as though I spend enough time with him.

What is your greatest source of strength?

My greatest source of strength is my support system.

Even though I may sometimes feel lonely or too overwhelmed to function, I have many people in my life that believe in me and cherish me, regardless of my personal achievements or failures. I have friends to talk me down during panic attacks, and I have friends who always know how to make me smile. I have friends who can be just as angry at social injustice as I am, and I have friends who encourage me to lighten up and remember that life is as ridiculous as it seems sometimes. I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of a support system to endure all types of obstacles, and I am grateful for my own.

What makes you laugh?

amanda 1I have a silly sense of humor…I love to watch comedy specials on Netflix, and I always find my way to funny home videos of children or animals on Facebook. Wordplay jokes and puns are classics, and I thoroughly enjoy satirical humor…especially during this time in American history. I have a favorite Twitter account called @kidswritejokes and I think they’re so ridiculous it’s hysterical.  I always want to share my joy and share things that make me laugh with others, but not everyone appreciates what I find humorous as much as I do.


Makes you cry?

What makes me cry is the empathy I have that makes me feel another person’s pain. When others hurt, I hurt for them. Sometimes I wish I didn’t, because there is so much pain in the world, but I know and try to remind myself that my empathy is my strength.

I cry when there are no words to completely reflect how I’m feeling…whether it’s sadness, anger, frustration, or happiness I am definitely not one to stifle my tears…and I’m actually okay with that.

You receive a $1000 tip…what do you do with it?

My first instinct would be to give a couple hundred to my mom to help pay some bills. Then I would surprise my family and get them something they want or need. I would buy Kasra a gift or treat him to dinner, buy my dog something cute and then I would put the rest in my savings for grad school. I will begin graduate school at Tulane University in January 2018.

What is the change you most hope to see in our world?

The change I most hope to see in our world is that of further developed and exercised empathy for others.  I think a lot of people live their lives for themselves, and that’s okay (to an extent), but I feel as though empathy makes you see and think about things differently. I believe the world would be a better place if we felt others’ emotions as strongly as we felt our own, because being aware of the pain, whether of your own or others’ is the first step in trying to accomplish anything with a lasting impact.


After getting her answers I honestly didn’t feel worthy to share her story…so much depth and wisdom to be “Only 22″… I waited and prayed for how God could use her story to encourage someone at just the right time in just the right way. I didn’t want this to be just another blog post…I almost posted this yesterday but I waited…and I’m so glad I did. There’s more….

Amanda slept outside last night. Yes. She slept on a cardboard box outside a shelter last night in New Orleans. Not because she had to…but because she chose to participate in the Covenant House Sleep Out. This is who she is. This is the girl who thought she was just bringing me some water…and now I’m asking for her cup to overflow.

I am going to attach the link to her fundraiser and I’m going to ask you to support her efforts and love for people and the future of her world. It’s payday. You can do this.

Click Here To Donate

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You know how you’ll hear a new word and suddenly it seems like you hear it everyday? You become aware of it and what you’re aware of becomes active. I was on a mission to find 5 people who might notice MY joy…Amanda has worked at Sonic for years…I go to Sonic several times a week to get my water…do the math.

Seek Joy,

love gina









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