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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Spaghetti Dinner and the Activism of Really Listening

Maria Lutgarda Glorioso

Maria Lutgarda Glorioso

Maria Lutgarda Glorioso

Food is the great unifier. There is something special about sharing a conversation over a meal.

Just a few weeks ago, spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad were the great unifiers of 12 SCU students in a conference room in Vari Hall. Many of us were acquainted but were essentially no more than a group of strangers bumping elbows over Italian food. All it took was three questions.

  1. What is the most awkward family dinner experience you have had?

  2. When do you recall thinking you were right and then changed your mind?

  3. When is a time that you experienced gracious listening?

The result? Feeling incredibly warm and connected. It is amazing how deep a conversation with a stranger can be when all of those engaged put their guards down and simply listen. We uniformly created a space that allowed the freedom to speak and the freedom to be heard.

I was most surprised by the fact that people listened to me and responded by asking deeper questions. It feels good to know that your words are not falling on deaf ears. In addition, the other attendees shared genuine interest in wanting to know more.

I asked one of the attendees how he felt about the dinner. He asked to remain anonymous. He reflected that the dinner was “life affirming.” He was described the experience as, “Just being able to talk to people and realize that other people have important experiences and thoughts that shape who they are.” For him, the experience was humanizing in the best way possible. It reminded all of us that despite who we are, what we do, and how busy life can be, we are all able to sit down and enjoy one another’s company.

In a sense, the experience was so radically different that he likened it to “life histories combined with progressive activism.”

How crazy does that sound? Having real, deep, and invested dinner conversations feels so unusual, so radical, that it feels like some form of activism. How far removed are we from listening to each other? How removed are we from caring to know more about other people?

I challenge the next person to listen, actually listen. Host a dinner. Come to our next dinner. Listen and engage. It might be the craziest thing you do.

Dec 6, 2017

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