Why are hundreds of Colorado Springs residents so excited about the simple act of sitting down with others and talking over dinner? And what is there to talk about when dinner guests include members of the citys evangelical churches, Jewish temples, and black, Latino, business, and gay communities?
The answer to these questions can be found in Food for Thought gatherings. This grassroots effort is easing tensions in a divided community by creating safe places for honest dialogue among people who come from different parts of town and hold opposing positions on a host of social, moral, and political issues.
Launched two years ago, Food for Thought recruits community members who are interested in meeting with others in small groups of 8-10 people for three dinners in peoples homes. Food for Thought assigns varied individuals to the dinner groups, trains group facilitators, and provides materials for discussion and debate.
As of May, around 230 people were meeting in 23 dinner groups, with new groups scheduled to start in June and September.
Now I am less inclined to stereotype people and more willing to listen, said one dinner participant. Another said, As the group developed, our discussions became increasingly substantive and forthright.
In addition, Food for Thought has signed up around three dozen Community Partners, including churches, temples, businesses, the media, and educational and civic organizations.
Community Partners, who agree to promote the dinners and recruit participants, include the Colorado Springs chapter of the Christian Management Association, the Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church, and evangelical publisher NavPress, which donates office space to Food for Thought.