Sunday evening a car was sent to take me to the airport. The man driving the car was all about ripples. I slid into his cool air-conditioned car, nervous about the trip that I was about to take, and he held up a CD: Phil Collins Serious Hits Live.

“You ever heard of this guy?”
“Phil Collins? Yes.”

I waved to my son out the car window and watched as he waved back and all of a sudden Phil Collins was singing “something happened on the way to heaven”. The driver backed out of my street and shouted over the drums, “watch how I take you to the airport!”

I leaned back. This was a different sort of prologue for me. This was electricity and spark.

We zoomed through the streets of Philadelphia letting the music soundtrack the journey.

The driver made eye contact with me in his rearview mirror.
“Do you like movies? Do you know Lawrence Kasden?”

It was such a random question. And I do mean truly random. I mean of course I like movies, most people do. But what are the odds that I would be asked about one of my favorite directors, a director of two movies on my top five list?

I replied that I liked Lawrence Kasden’s work and the driver looked at me in the mirror again and I could tell from his eyes that he was smiling.

“I live my life like I am in that movie The Grand Canyon”.

He then told me all about how everything he does is a chance to put a ripple in the world: a ripple for good. He paused to let a car make a turn out of a gas station. As the driver of the car waved his thanks my driver said, “see? Ripple!”

He believed that others witness every action that we do in life. If it is a good action it can be a ripple to inspire others to do good within their own life. He let the guy make a turn from the gas station and he projected that not only will the driver of that car feel that ripple but so will the cars surrounding him. See good deeds and then be inspired to do good deeds.

We slowly got around to talking about where I was going and why. I explained that I was going to Atlanta to a sort of mini conference at the Coca-Cola headquarters and that part of the conference was going to be about living positively.

“Hey! That’s me!” And it was. He was the perfect overture for my trip and I thought about the way he lived his life often while I was in Atlanta.

Monday was the first day of the conference and it was scheduled from top to bottom.

I met the other bloggers that would be attending in the lobby of the hotel and we were all given name badges and made small talk attempts of getting to know each other before we were escorted from the hotel to the world of Coca-Cola. There a simple breakfast was spread out for us. I sat down and quickly made friends with the bloggers at my table as if we had known each other for ages. Everyone was warm, kind, silly.

The first part of our program was a presentation by co-founder of BlogHer Elisa Camahort on the state of the blogosphere and how we fit within it. It was an incredibly empowering talk with the final message being that the people who write blogs and the people that read blogs are deeply connected. It was also refreshing to be reminded that blogs transform our lives. One of the statements she said that literally made my lip quiver was, “I wish my Grandmother had blogged.” Yes. That. Me too…

The next part of the morning was emotional and overwhelming and I am going to sort of glaze over it and shuffle my feet and cough and say it might have involved creating a vision board and thinking about life goals and of COURSE I totally cried.

And you guys. When I say I totally cried I don’t just mean I totally cried in front of the super awesome co-founder of BlogHer and a dozen other groovy bloggers. Oh no I wept in front of executives from both Coca-Cola AND McDonald’s.

But this blog is my life and I can’t stand up in front of strangers (or anyone) and talk about elements of my life without revealing the deeply emotional place that the roots of my tree are planted within.

All of the bloggers in the group got a chance to stand up and talk about their blog and their journey and it was beautiful. I honestly wish you all could experience the reverberence of power that happens when you have a room full of people beaming, “you can do it!” at you.

Then there was a presentation from McDonald’s where I basically tried to convince them to carry the Shamrock Shake year round AND bring the Hamburglar back. They smiled and then talked to us about their ideas on sustainability from supply perspectives to build & energy perspectives and then to packaging perspectives.

What struck me was how incredibly eager they were to move forward with their big ideas on sustainability, how kind of science-class nerdy they were about it all. They shared information about the 4 McDonald’s that are L.E.E.D. Gold certified energy efficient and how they view these as learning labs to help implement more green McD’s globally.

The next speakers were a group of women leaders from Coke that blew me away. These were high-powered women that made no apologies for loving their career and families equally. One of my favorite quotes from their Q&A was, “Balance is a false goal. I am unwilling to put a job I love against a family I love.” Another was, “I love being underestimated. I will outwork you.”

We heard about Coke’s women’s leadership committee and I was appreciative of all that they do to help women within the organization move forward through mentorship and training. “Lift as you climb” was a philosophy that all of the women on the panel seemed to follow.

Next up for our group was a tour of the super cool World of Coca-Cola by the most adorable archivist ever. Being a font lover, I enjoyed hearing about the origins of the infamous script of “Coca-Cola” (it was created by the bookkeeper of the creator of Coke). We saw beautiful examples of advertisements through the decades and from around the world. It was here that I really began to understand how globally unifying something like a soft drink could be.

We sampled some of the Coca-Cola owned drinks from around the world and soared from the sugar rush.

After a lovely reception and dinner at a nearby restaurant a group of us decided to hang out at the hotel pool. On a whim I had packed my swimsuit so I was thrilled to be able to put it on and jump in. The next several hours were truly amazing for me. Brainstorming and idea hunting and listening to novel plots and hearing about hopes and plans and what ifs and maybes. It was incredibly satisfying and inspiring and propelling.

The next morning we jumped right back in to hear more of Coke’s message. I feel like this day was Coke being vulnerable to us. Monday we saw and heard so many wonderful things about the company and the people within it. Tuesday was pretty much, “so now let’s talk about all the reasons why people might have a problem with us…”

There really isn’t a negative line of dialogue that you can lob at a Coke executive that they haven’t heard before: sugar/sweetener questions, caffeine questions, marketing questions, every health question you can imagine…they have heard it. They don’t shy away from them at all.

[I will be happy to share any web resources that I was given. If you have any interest in that let me know.]

Something that I liked hearing about was how Coca-Cola is thinking outside of the box when it comes to working on being part of the solution for increasing better health. They reached out to the NASCAR community to figure out a way to bring some physical activity to its fans and came up with something called Track Walks. Now fans across the country can walk laps on the track in between races. There is even a down the road goal to bring in medical clinics.

As a group we were also presented with some interesting ideas that Sprite is working on and we were able to be incredibly honest about our opinions on the project.

Coca-Cola turns 125 years old this year and philanthropy and community involvement are on the top of their cake. They know they have a product that people enjoy; now they really want to make sure that their customers are healthy and able to enjoy a positive life.

I think about the driver that sent the ripple that got me to the airport that allowed me to get on the plane that carried me to Atlanta to meet these amazing bloggers and have this experience. When I told him I was going to the Coca-Cola headquarters he asked me to bring him back a coke. “And a smile, dear! Don’t forget to bring back a smile!”

I’m back and I’m smiling. It was a good experience. A LOT of information in a small amount of time, but I came back smiling.

{I will be writing another post later this week about the other bloggers that were there with links to their sites so you can meet them too!}

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