Every time I open my refrigerator and reach into the top drawer and remove that red and white glass bottle of Coca-Cola it takes me back to a time when a 75-year-old woman named Bea handed me an ice cold Coca-Cola over the fence every week when I cut her grass.
It was 1989, the same year the Berlin wall fell. I was 16 years old and homeless. My walls were up to say the least. I didn’t trust anyone. I just wanted to work, earn money and buy food. I wasn’t about to let my guard down and wouldn’t get close to anyone.
Week after week Bea handed me an ice cold Coca-Cola over the fence and we would talk. Or I should say, she would talk. She’d talk about simple things like the weather or her wood-working business or the job I was doing. Little by little those walls around me began to crumble.
Toward the end of the summer, Bea brought a Coca-Cola out to the fence beside the apple tree like she did every week but this time she didn’t talk about the weather or her wood shop or yard work. Instead, she asked me where I lived. I told her, “Awe, up the road.” I didn’t want to tell her that I didn’t have a home and was living on the streets. She said that she and her husband had been talking and wanted to know if I would be interested in moving into their home.
I took them up on their offer and moved into their spare bedroom. I figured they’d eventually make me leave; but they didn’t. They gave me an opportunity to go back to high school, graduate from college and pursue my dream of writing and performing music.
I’ll never forget that night in 2009 when I walked off stage at Madison Square Garden in New York City en route to my dressing room. I thought about Bea handing me that ice cold Coca-Cola back in 1989, and where I was standing at that moment twenty years later. Those hallways backstage at the Garden reminded me of a classic Coca-Cola commercial where a young boy ran up to Mean Joe Greene and handed him a Coke. I could almost see a young fella running up to me and saying “Sir, I’m a foster kid – just like you were.” I then imagined Bea’s hand holding a Coca-Cola and reaching towards mine; and me passing it on to the young boy to share the gift of Coca-Cola with him. Because to me, it’s more than a soft drink; it’s a reminder of Bea’s loving heart that believed in me and encouraged me to ‘be somebody.’ Somebody who’s willing to do the right thing and make a difference in this world.
This Thanksgiving Day I’m thankful for the amazing gifts Bea gave to me; a home, an opportunity to complete my education and pursue my dreams. I’m thankful that I can give it forward through my book Walk To Beautiful and inspire many people to do exactly what Bea did for me. And, I’m thankful for Coca-Cola because that’s where it all started.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Have a Coca-Cola and take a moment to share who you’re thankful for. #walktobeautifulcoke