READER’S CHOICE 2016 CITIZEN OF THE YEAR!
BY JACLYN ROSE –
If you have been to the Mena McDonald’s on Highway 71 in the last few weeks, you have probably had the privilege of meeting Bryan Russell, the happy guy at the second window who hands out the food and drinks and dispensers of joy, the term he has coined for an average straw. Chances are, Russell made you smile with his joyful personality and genuine smile. And if you smiled, then you made Russell’s day because that was his goal.
After moving around a lot as a child, Russell graduated high school in Mississippi and is a self-proclaimed Ole Miss Rebel fan. It was during his senior year of high school that his mother was diagnosed with cancer and he began helping to take care of her. Eventually his mother moved to Tennessee to live near Russell’s sister, but Russell followed when she became sick again. After his mother moved to Mena to be near family, Russell began to see God close some doors in Tennessee and he felt lead to move to Polk County the first of April. “It has been a blessing living in Mena. God has allowed me to go through so much in the past so that I can be where I am today. I was raised in church but then, like many Millennial Generation guys, I thought I didn’t need the Lord and for 12 years I ran from Him and then He got ahold of me and changed me. I never thought I would enjoy working at McDonald’s but I love seeing a smile on someone’s face. Even such a silly thing like calling a straw a ‘dispenser of joy’ can brighten someone’s day and that makes it worth it,” explained Russell.
Russell has not had the easiest life, and the norm would be to become bitter or depressed but instead he has allowed God to turn his life experiences into a ministry. “A lot of people ask why I’m so happy and it’s all because of God. I’m just a big guy covered in tattoos, I’ve been homeless three times in the last ten years and I’ve lost everything I had, but through it all God provided and without Him I am nothing. I know that God allowed me to go through all this for His purpose, because without this, I would not be able to help young people. He is the reason I get up in the morning with a smile on my face and He is the reason I love my job, because He provided it and I try to share the Gospel with others with the smile on my face. I had one customer tell me that I was too happy but if one out of ten people that come through smile, then I did my job,” Russell said. “I love the people I work with, they are great and Charlie and Jennifer [management at the Mena McDonald’s] are behind me and my positive attitude, they are great to work for. I hope that one person will ask me why I’m so happy and I can share with them that God is why and that He can make them happy too.”
“I really enjoy living in Mena. I like that there’s a little city life but with a small town feel. And the people that come through McDonald’s are great, they are why I’m working here. I also love the mountain and have since I was a child. It’s a great place to live,” Russell said.
Russell was featured as the Citizen of the Week June 6, 2015 and received over 1,300 Facebook likes and his story was viewed online over 2,000 times.