Dinner guests shouldn't all be on the same page

January 21, 2012

Among others, a liberal-leaning organization is looking for a few talkative conservatives for dinner and conversation.

The Colorado Springs Diversity Forum is starting a “Food for Thought” program, a series of meetings where “people break bread and build bridges,” said Cecilia Jacobs, steering committee chairperson. The group is inviting everyone, and hopes to attract a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences such as  military, college students, and retirees.

“We started this because it seems people are not talking to each other,” she said. “We are becoming polarized in this country.”

Trained facilitators who create a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere will run the events.

Conversations will revolve around challenging subjects and can be lively and passionate, but not uncivil or overbearing.

Camaraderie is inspired because the attendees are divided into small groups of no more than 10 or 12 people sharing potluck food and taking turns meeting in each others homes.

In the 1990s there was a similar Diversity Forum program by the same name that started as a response to the divisiveness around Amendment 2. “People on all sides of that issue, sat around the talked and became real to each other,” Jacobs noted.

Various groups met for more than 10 years, and the program eventually ran its course.

One group of 10 still gathers together. Cyndee Larson, a member of that group, said that over the years they have talked about everything and she has learned a lot.

She says much of her time revolves around her church and her job at The Navigators, an international Christian organization.

“What I have enjoyed about the dinners is that I can be friends with those very different from me, people I wouldn’t have otherwise connected with through church and work. It’s interesting to get a different perspective whether it’s political, spiritual or ethnic.”

And yes, she said she learned to bite her tongue. “It’s an exercise in self control. You can still be passionate, but you learn to listen and really hear people rather than reacting.”

In the new program people will sign up, and fill out a survey telling a little about themselves.

The information is private and only used to choose a diverse and creative mix for the discussion groups. Couples or friends can elect to be in the same group.

The groups will meet for five dinners in six months. New groups will start every month.

The deadline for the first event is Tuesday. Applications are online at cospdiversityforum.org.  For information or phone sign ups call  433-0119.

The first get acquainted event for new participants will be 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Leon Young Service Center, 1521 S. Hancock Expressway.

At that event people will introduce themselves, agree to ground rules, and select topics.

Contact Carol McGraw: 636-0371 Twitter @mcgrawatgazette Facebook Carol McGraw

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