Upon starting Community Dining nearly two years ago with little idea about what to expect, I knew challenges would lie ahead, but just assumed I would figure out whatever I needed without much difficulty. Now I have to admit that the recent Sun Time article about the upcoming Community Dining event with Alderman Moreno focused on gentrification in Logan Square this Wednesday along with the intensity of the criticism directed at me through social media and personal messages have caught me off guard. While I responded to the article in an earlier post expressing the need to maintain the integrity of the experience in the face of public scrutiny, because of all of this attention, I would like to communicate directly with all of you about where Community Dining is heading and how you can help.
Keeping the focus of future events on lighter and less controversial topics could represent an easier path, yet doing so based on a desire to avoid public criticism serves to inject fear into future experiences, thereby gradually tarnishing their integrity and subtly eroding their value. Community Dining remains at its best when it signifies a blank canvas by which anyone can create an exceptional, limitless experience as well as the natural ability of human beings with different backgrounds, viewpoints, and interests to voluntarily and peacefully enjoy each others’ company – and the need to maximize its potential in order strengthen and maintain social bonds demonstrates exactly why critics demanding I “just do a potluck” to make future dinners more affordable have a limited idea of inclusion that lacks long-term sustainability.
This insight became especially apparent just the other night when I met Tina Mari Rucker, an artist who felt such a connection to Community Dining that she immediately decided to donate a ticket for the upcoming event based on her sensitivity towards those of limited means and desire to create a more integrated world after I explained to her that several people directly affected by gentrification who couldn’t afford to attend truly wanted to participate. At that moment, I realized that if the idea of donating a ticket to someone in need that allows this person to share a meal prepared with reverence through Community Dining with a wide range of people that would never have otherwise met could resonate so deeply and so quickly with just one person, imagine what would happen if we communicate this opportunity on a mass scale.
A while back I shared a USA Today article which mentioned a past Community Dining event and how someone used it as a means to give an experiential birthday gift to a friend. Taking this idea a step further, an experiential gift can also go towards a stranger and help provide a mechanism to display acts of kindness. So I ask all of you to consider giving future Community Dining event tickets as gifts, not only to your significant other, friends, or family, but potentially to a complete stranger as well. I’ve even created special gift cards thanks to graphic designer and HI-VIBE Superfood Juicery Chief Communications Officer Melissa Conrad and would also like to extend the offer of publicly recognizing those who donate tickets and introducing the donors to the recipients for those who are interested. Maybe some events will one day consist entirely of donated tickets. Wouldn’t that be cool?!
Here are the updated details for this Wednesday’s dinner – which now includes drinks!