Breakfast with a rooster who helped me smile

Roosters are not usually seen in public places and especially not at the Duval County School Board Building in Jacksonville, Fla. A prestigious building, it is the influential hub of local educational activity, located near downtown.

So it was no surprise that eyebrows were raised when a Crawdaddy's Restaurant was built next door. The restaurants are designed to look rustic and run-down - complete with a live rooster and hens clucking around it.

In time, school board workers stopped noticing their unsightly neighbors and carried on with the serious business of education. No one, however, told the rooster about this.

I was having a difficult time that year. I had accepted a promotion that moved me out of my school and into the school board building. Days after accepting my new job, I had realized that it wasn't right for me. But I could not return to my old position because it already had been filled.

Despite this, I was determined to remain cheerful and friendly. This was often a challenge - until I met Rudy, the rooster, in the parking lot.

I parked in the same spot every morning, next to the chain-link fence that separated us from the infamous Crawdaddy's Restaurant.

One morning, as I locked my car, I noticed a handsome rooster on the other side of the fence. Always open to a new social exchange, I called out a friendly greeting to the beautiful creature staring at me. The next morning, my newfound friend came through a hole in the fence to greet me.

I began to carry bags of bread crumbs to share with him. He no longer waited behind the fence, but waited in my parking place.

As the months wore on, I began to look forward to my morning encounter with Rudy. My little friend was always there to greet me, rain or shine, hot or cold. Several times I stood under my umbrella during our exchanges. I always felt uplifted, as though I had eaten breakfast with a dear friend.

Meanwhile, in spite of my discomfort working for the school board, I found I was learning new skills.

On one beautiful spring morning I pulled into my parking place only to find that Rudy wasn't there. I felt disappointed and a little anxious for my loyal friend. I scanned the restaurant's parking lot, hoping for a sign of him.

Then I saw my proud rooster. He was slipping through a hole in the fence - with three brown hens lined up behind him.

I laughed out loud. "You brought company for breakfast?" I asked.

I was a little short on bread crumbs, but I shared all that I had with Rudy and his ladies-in-waiting. I bade him a great day and turned to cross the parking lot. But just before I entered the double glass doors, the guard stopped me. I could come in, he said, but my friends would have to wait outside.

Surprised, I turned to see that Rudy and his ladies had followed me. It was later than a rooster would normally crow, but Rudy's crow could be heard by everyone that morning. I was sure he was saying: "Have a great day!"

At the end of the summer, I was placed in a school, in a position similar to the one I had left. I took with me a year rich with experience.

I also took with me the memory of a special rooster who helped me start the days with a smile.

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