A 20-year-old woman and a Chick-fil-A employee share a viral moment.

Communication is essential to daily life. It’s how we express ourselves, tell others what we need, and make social connections and bonds. So imagine living in a world where so few people speak your language, and how isolating that might feel.

It’s a feeling one woman grew up with as a result of her hearing impairment. But that changed one special day when an employee at a local fast food joint signed back.

Extra Special Chicken Nuggets

fast food restaurant employee using sign language with a customer

Twenty-year-old Cynthia Walker and her mother, Terri Buelman, had heard there was a cashier at their local Chik-fil-A in Fayetteville, North Carolina, who knew ASL. So they went to the chicken joint in hopes of meeting her.

Sure enough, when Walker approached high school senior Taylor Anez and signed her order, Anez signed right back. It was all caught on video, which Buelman posted to Chick-fil-A’s social media, where it went viral.

The woman’s order was simple — chicken nuggets — but it was also a huge milestone. Unbeknownst to Anez, it was the first time Walker had ever been able to order for herself at a restaurant.

“She has never been able to make her own order for fast food. I started signing with her, and she talked to me,” Anez told The Fayetteville Observer. “She was so happy. She smiled the whole time. It made me feel good about myself, being able to talk with her.”

A Handy Skill

Anez told the publication that she learned ASL growing up because of hearing-impaired family members. Her best friend is also hearing impaired, and it’s a skill she has used a lot in her life.

When Chick-fil-A hired Anez, her managers had no idea she had the skill, however. Then, the video of her and Walker went viral. The restaurant has had a steady stream of hearing-impaired customers ever since.

Store manager Jessica Rivera says people have called, sent messages via social media, and even connected with Anez to see when she would be working again. Many of them were calling on behalf of family members or friends who are hearing impaired.

“They want them to experience normalcy,” Rivera told the publication. “Just being able to order food by themselves. That’s what you want.”

“It’s something positive,” Buelman added of the viral reaction. “It gives hope to our future. We see so many things posted about teenagers and young people turning to crime. We do have kids in this generation that care and are making something of themselves. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Opening Up to New Experiences

This story highlights how important it is for any workplace to strive for inclusivity and to take skills like ASL or additional spoken languages into consideration when staffing up. People want to feel seen and heard, and being able to communicate in a common language is essential in making that happen.

If we don’t manage employees, we too can try to up our own communication skills to help those around us. Consider learning ASL or another language. It won’t just help you to potentially communicate with those around you and make you more employable, but research indicates it’s also good for your brain.

And if you don’t speak another language and come across someone who can’t speak yours, remember to lead with grace and patience. At the end of the day, we’re all human, and connecting is a universal experience.