Friday, January 12, 2018

Who Plans a Party for “Community”?

By Barbara Bryan

The final item on an action and education-packed Davidson Board of Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday night read “Consider Community Dinners Program.”

Mayor Rusty Knox appeared a bit surprised that his idea—“to organize community dinners on a periodic basis to bring citizens together as a fellowship and community building initiative”—had been added by staff to the evening’s agenda.  Staff needs to check options including health codes and logistics, for a potential April Town-wide Potluck.

Wasting no time in describing his hope for healing in the presence of food and fellowship, Mayor Knox touched on divisiveness in political circles prior to Davidson’s 2017 elections, insisting that the community dinner was not an East-West or Concert on te Green type event but an “all 28036 thing” for everyone.

He named many potential outdoor sites such as soccer fields, Village Green, Fisher Farm, Summers Walk’s Green, Davidson College, Roosevelt Wilson Park and more before noting that uncertain weather may call for an indoor venue (or several).

At the suggestion of Commissioner Jane Campbell, the event may turn out to be a BYOF affair: Bring Your Own Food.  Not sure what health codes control that choice.  But, in the line of community building as the objective, and perhaps even before a Big Deal Meal, may I suggest:

Before this good idea gets too complicated (as have other “community” building plans initiated in Town Hall), let’s define  “community” and consider examples of genuine community-building dinners.

“Community” is a noun sometimes massaged into possessing active verb life-changing potential:  Pick a time and place—Town Day or Concert on the Green—and bonds of “community” inevitably will emerge.  But, that rarely happens.

It was spontaneous enthusiasm that sparked almost instant community as citizens from every angle of Davidson’s borders—and the existing Middle—became fast friends in the Save Davidson movement FOR its future.

Common and varied interests—known or discovered speedily—turn strangers into lifelong friends, supporting each others’ shared objectives.   Parallel play (shared time and space) never have nor will automatically create “community.”  “Community” is not a top down mix of people without some shared concern.

The Mayor’s concern is reviving Davidson’s heart for the wellbeing of the Town and each other.  So, what is the best M.O. for building community?  Food is always a draw (for himself, the Mayor admits); but, who, where, why, and how to make a 28036 dinner happen in a winning way?

Well, perhaps as a warm up, the following came to mind as possibilities. 

1 Dinners should consist of small groups in homes willing to learn more about and from others—newbies and Old Guard—who haven’t met.
2 What about a Progressive Dinner starting with appetizers at Gethsemane Baptist Church, moving to Davidson Presbyterian Church on Depot St for BBQ or Fish Fry, and concluding at Davidson College Presbyterian Church for dessert?  It’s even walkable!
3 What if people chose Topics or Subjects that interest them: from streetlights, transportation, recreation, etc., areas of Town life they would like to work on after breaking bread with like-minded others?
4 My favorite: Saturday morning Potluck Breakfast.  That’s something that may be easier because of timing, more free time to talk, and no one’s having a big investment in food cost.

There are many ways to inspire—in natural and easy settings—the kind of community that changes the way most are coming to feel about sharing time and talents in our terrific town.

Oh, and following each community dinner—no matter how small—there is a “Satisfaction Survey.”   It allows participants to describe pre, during, and post dinner feelings, as well as stating what involvement they want to offer because of the experience.    When surveys are “summarized”—with key concerns glossed over by those who may have arranged the event and worded the survey—they are, well, less reliable.  Just tell it like it was!

Can’t imagine a better new Mayor to arrange an after-dinner Group Hug!

1 comment:

  1. Since Ryan Fay was the first one to present the idea of community dinners during the campagin, it might be good to touch base with him and ask what his vision was for implementing, to throw in the mix of the ideas Barbara mentioned.