Meals with Strangers

Invite yourself to Dinner

Have you ever imagined the people you can meet and the stories you could hear if you are bold enough to ask? We all say trite things such as “If the walls could talk” and perhaps some of the time we mean it. I for one really do wish that in earnest and have planned a way to hear some more of those stories.

“Meals with Strangers” is a project that will explore the stories and lives of random strangers, under the premise of sharing a meal with them. The goal is to get a picture of the stranger in a natural setting, using a meal to break the ice and bring our guard down, and get a memorable story to share with others.

In my travels I have come across so many wonderful people that have so many wonderful things to share with others if they would just listen. Words of wisdom, life advice, cautionary tales, and the list goes on and on. We have each stumbled across a pearl or two in our own lives through experience or adversity or incredible blessings. Imagine the power we would have if we combined those shared experiences. We live in a world where the media makes it easy to categorize others or judge them or worse yet even hate them. What if we really did have the power to reach across the isles as it were and realize we really are all one big brotherhood of man sharing this big spinning rock together for a short time? We are the ones who have the power over what that shared experience will be. We can fill it with joy, service, gratitude, compassion, violence, hate, persecution or any number of things.

I have found in my own experiences that initial contact is the thing that scares people the most about interaction with others. Fear. That great big monster that limits us. Most people in this world really are eager to be part of a group. It is part of our DNA, part of our genetic memory from ages of trying to survive. We really understand at a primal level the value of synergy, the reality of accomplishing more together. We feel safer. We feel happier when we are part of crowd. It is our very nature. Yet it is also our nature to distrust, to be cautious and sadly to be afraid. Look at how many people are afraid of sales jobs because they are afraid to approach others? How many people can make cold calls? How many people are willing to sell door to door? How many religious people are afraid of proselyting? Even within a community of salespeople, how many are afraid to approach potential customers and instead wait to be order takers? How many people stand around the bus stop not talking to each other or not looking at each other? How many people stand around in lines without interacting? Why would then not want to pass the time more pleasantly than just standing around? All of that aside, we still have this desire to communicate with others, to be with others we are just afraid of that first step.

This project is primarily about wonderful people around us and their stories, but the secondary force in it is to show what can be accomplished if just one person will overcome the fear of initial contact. That spark is all it takes to open up this shared human library of experience. I have heard it said that when someone dies, a library closes. I find that tragic and I think we could get hard copies of those human libraries for the rest of us to enjoy and benefit from. I am the odd duck in the pond that doesn’t understand why the other ducks are afraid. I love meeting new people and hearing new things. I go out of my way to make that initial contact and it has enriched my life. I want to share that feeling, those experiences and that part of humanity with others. If I am willing to be that spark and share the outcome with others, chances are others are going to enjoy what comes of it. Then there is that small possibility that it can motivate others towards the same experiences. What if the idea catches on? What if we suddenly become interested in those around us? What if we open our hearts and minds to seeing other people as individuals, as friends or as community instead of strangers?

The rules to the game are going to be quite simple. I will eat a meal with a stranger. This event can come about through me inviting someone to a meal, or taking a picnic and asking someone to share it with me, inviting myself to their table at a restaurant or even in to their home. It may be a shared meal with a homeless person or with How the meal came about will be documented as well as the experience being voice recorded to reference back to for written material, and finished off with photos of the strangers. The picture goal of the project would be to have it be an ongoing project with stories and photos continually added. Ideally the project would grow to where other people do the same thing and share those stories as well. A website domain has already been secured for that purpose. It should grow into a community project where I am the catalyst that gets it going, but good people all around the world continue the work.

Breaking bread as an urban term has a route in Christianity from the last supper where Christ breaks bread and institutes the sacrament with his disciples. This fundamental ordinance in Christianity is symbolic of walking a Christian life of love and service to others.