The Big Table or The Needed Table
By Devin Cecere
On April 17 almost 4,000 of our neighbors joined in conversations as part of The Big Table (organized by Leadership Pittsburgh). Here at the Food Bank, nearly 40 people came together around five tables to share delicious food prepared by nutritionists from our health and wellness team. The rules for the conversation were simple: start with a shared question, encourage creative and productive dialogue, jot down ideas, allow the conversation to flow freely, suspend judgement.
What a gift those conversations were! Even as part of an organization whose mission is to feed people in need and mobilize the community to end hunger, it is so easy to focus on hitting fundraising targets and making progress toward goals in a strategic plan. The day-to-day tasks, meetings, check lists, reports, and decisions that make the work of the Food Bank happen. That work is essential. AND it is essential that we make time, prioritize time, for conversation that builds stronger human connections.
Each table began with the question, “How can we work together to build a strong, connected community?” I left the conversation revitalized. Reminded of the power we have when we come together, of the joy of community, of the beauty of sharing ideas and good food and of the importance of broadening your exposure and connection outside of your regular circle of friends and family and neighbors.
As we discussed these things, it gave me a chance to really listen to others, and realize how different, novel, and similar their perspectives were to mine. – Chris West, Big Table host
As someone at our table rightly said, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” The conversations of the day reminded me that one of the best ways to figure out what you don’t know is to talk to people you don’t know. That’s how we grow. Together.
I ask us all, isn’t The Big Table really The Needed Table?
I left feeling energized, supported, hopeful and encouraged to engage on a broader scale. – Charlese McKinney, Big Table host