Physically there are many empty seats in the ballroom. Sparse rows and columns. What takes place fills up the spirit and air, taking a breath and holding it with a conviction. They're still filing in, but the clock runs to the minute.
It's the inaugural event and gathering of because I said I would, a social movement dedicated to making and keeping promises. Of honouring your word.
The speakers are varied and their backgrounds diverse. Their truth all the same. Eva Kor, a survivor of the Holocaust and Josef Mengele's experiments. Frail but determined. Colonel Parker Schenecker, who runs a foundation in honour of his children, shot dead by their mother. Beaming at what he is able to do in his children's names. Laura Cowan, a domestic violence survivor. Resolute and spirited. Jay Atlas, who walked across the United States to raise awareness of human trafficking. Affable and low-key. From heartbreaking to admirable, it's a gamut of motivation and inspiration that runs the day.
There's a credible sense of family among the speakers. As they pass the clicker back and forth, they share a hug, embracing each other and transferring that energy back and forth. It's palpable.
Breaks are often, and needed. Not only as a way to stretch out between the speakers, but to recollect yourself. It's an emotionally draining and affecting experience to listen and be grabbed by the stories. The journeys and triumphs are on all manner of wonderful. If you ever need a boost or reaffirmation of all the good that exists in the world, ONE bottles that up and pours it out in a stream of resilience and resolve.
With as much salt on faces and leaky eyeballs, you have to remember to replenish, drinking plenty from the vendor hawking $3 bottles, or suckling from the dainty cups of water off to the side of the Battelle Grand Ballroom.
Some of the videos in parts of the speaker decks crank the volume up too high to bear. Listening is then a little distorted fighting against the crackle. It's even louder than the level of when founder Alex Sheen is shouting, so the blare hiss is up there.
Throughout the day, Sheen comes back on stage and drops all sorts of experiences and tips. How goals aren't promises, but that promise can lead to making sure your goal is that much within your power. Setting yourself up for success, and knowing the quiet of doing things even when, or especially when, no one else is watching or even cares.
Sheen brings things to a close sharing a impetus, a drive, for what's to become of because I said I would. A mission statement, a plan of action for the non-profit organisation to extend beyond one person's life. To have it become a thing of its own with a future that can't be contained.
ONE distills all that because I said I would is and can hope to be. It can be a lot to take in, but there is nothing that says you have to start big. And that's the whole point. You start small, you start with yourself. You depend on you holding yourself to task because you can't wait for others.
You have to pick something and finish what you started. Whether or not it's a life changing experience depends on how you want to be affected by it. It is definitely life affirming.
To the next ONE.
Taking place on 6 September 2014 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Ohio, United States.
Reviewed on Monday, 15 September 2014