I’m always interested in a person’s story. Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell died this week at 83. As I read through a quick biography, I found his journey interesting. When he was 12, his family moved to a small farm outside of San Bernardino. By 16, he’s “riding the rails” in search of work because His family was dealing with hard financial times. He joins the marines. After the war, he purchases a truck to haul adobe bricks for just pennies each. A venture in the miniature golf course business goes bust. This entrepreneur opens a hamburger stand called Bell’s Hamburgers and Hotdogs in a Hispanic neighborhood. Bell say’s he’ll never forget his first taco customer. The man was dressed in a suit and when he bit into the taco, the juice ran down his sleeve and onto his tie. He thought he’d lost a customer, but the man returned wanting another. Bell sold his chain of 868 stores to PepsiCo in 1978.
Here’s a guy with vision. After several failed or nominal attempts at achievement, Bell discovers success. His attempt to meet a need took courage, creativity, and ingenuity. Of course, people have to eat. He worked on the cusp of the drive-in boom in California. Bell created a product unique to the fast food marketplace. His idea would change America’s perception of the taco. Today, there are over two billion tacos and a billion burritos are sold at more than 5,600 Taco Bell outlets around the world.
Why do I reflect on this journey? It is another example of how one idea can change and influence the lives of millions. It is another example of how important it is to dream and take a risk. Here’s the lesson. We need churches and Christians willing to dream, risk, foster creativity, and reward ingenuity. We have a message, we just need to find a way to get it out. Perhaps we’ve had too much of a burger mentality. Tacos anyone?