05/19/2010 05:52 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Radiance and Chicken

It's not just the chicken. Yes, the food is definitely quality at El Pollo Loco. But that's not why I go to the drive-in on Lincoln and California in Venice every Monday. It's not just because it's a drive-thru and convenient, although that is exactly why I went there the first time. This particular El Pollo Loco is near my early morning Monday dance class and on my way to work. I can get a salad and a combo which holds me over for lunch and dinner -- so I'm good for the whole day. But that's not the real reason I drive through every Monday, as there are lots of easy in and out places I can go.

I go because of Margarita's smile (name changed). When Margarita greets me with my chicken order, she does so with all heart. "Here is your order," she smiles. "What else can I get for you?" And she means it. The first time I drove through, I wanted to know if I could get a lemonade and iced tea mixed. She offered that I try out the iced tea first to make sure I wanted it. Now I don't want to get her into trouble, but this simple act of kindness through the take-out window of El Pollo Loco made me come back, again, and again. Her radiant smile and kindness continues each week.

Now why do I bring this up on a blog about autism? Perhaps just to say how important it is to go the extra mile for others. No matter what the situation. You never know who is going to be driving by, who needs a little extra dose of kindness. That first day when Margarita smiled at me, I had had a tough morning with Neal. I don't know if it was teenage angst or autism, but it was difficult motor planning him to get ready for school. Somehow we plodded through, and I made it to my dance class. I knew it was gong to be busy at work with no time for lunch, plus I'd have to be there late so I decided to stock up at El Pollo Loco. Little did I know that Margarita's glowing smile and thoughtful gestures were going to fill me up for my day as much -- or more -- than the chicken that I purchased.

I'd love to hear from you how others' kind acts have made a difference in your life. And as you go on your day, I invite you to take a moment and smile at someone. You never know how much that can mean. And if you're on the Westside of LA, do stop at El Pollo Loco and tell Margarita I sent you.

In Joy,

Elaine Hall
Coach E
Author, Now I See the Moon: a mother, a son, a miracle(HarperCollins)