Early Thursday evening I found myself explaining to someone, "I'm in a bit of a hurry. I have a whole lot of people coming for dinner. I don't know who they are all are, or how many places to set at the table."
As it turned out, eight people sat down to share a meal, and I had met most (but not all) of them before. They had never met each other. We had a disparate of group of people, who, thankfully, had nothing better to do on a Thursday night, and decided to come and have dinner with a group of perfect strangers. We had a community, we had dinner, and we had a conversation.
Dinner on the Table hosted a community conversation, lead by Ben Jackson, CEO, of Hills Community Aid. The event was planned to coincide with Neighbourhood Centre Week, the theme of which for 2016 is "Grow together, eat together." Sounds like Dinner on the Table, right?
A community conversation is a chance for a group to come together around a kitchen table and think aspirationally about their community: what is it we think we need, and how would we get there.
So, what did a group of strangers say about their community: the way it is and the way they'd like it?
We wanted a community that embraced diversity, whose members were active, rather than apathetic, and a community that was safe. Are we harking back to the proverbial "good old days"? We don't think so.
The "good old days" were a time when people with disabilities were institutionalised and diversity of culture, language, or even gender was often frowned upon. But we felt we currently lack the community engagement, activity, or perhaps activism to get people out and interacting.
But here's the irony: here was a group of people, engaged, out, and interacting. Doing exactly what they wished for. A group of people who didn't know each other and who may not have a lot in common.
They were brought together around a table. Eating dinner is about nutrition. It is about being sustained. But it's more than that. It's about gathering together with your people - whomever they are, and, so it would seem, whether you know them or not.
Food is a big part of what all of us do every day. When people come together around a meal, ideas are generated, diversity is embraced, people are sustained.
Our diversity intersects around one simple idea: we all eat dinner.
We are very grateful to Ben, and Hills Community Aid for inviting us to partner with them in the inaugural Community Conversation for 2016. We had a fabulous evening and look forward to many more conversations. People gather where there is food, and we love to provide it.