Opinion Columns & Blogs

Let’s literally sit down at the table together (and eat) to work on Macon’s problems

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When my sons were very small, we took almost weekly trips to the Ocmulgee National Monument (plenty of acreage to run off toddler energy). On one drive over, just after we’d crossed the Ocmulgee River, they asked me where we were, and I told them we were in East Macon. “Oh,” one of them said (I can’t remember which one). “I didn’t know there were two Macons.”

Two Macons. That struck me, because as I was seeing my hometown through new eyes — adult eyes, mother’s eyes — I was starting to notice divisions in the community. North Macon. Downtown Macon. East Macon. Bloomfield. Southside. Black. White. Public School. Private School. Country Club. Public Housing. With relatively little effort, it’s entirely possible to live a life here without encountering others from different backgrounds, races, religions, viewpoints or income levels.

This is a multigenerational problem, and it’s not going to be solved overnight, but an innovative upcoming event aims at breaking down some of the barriers that divide us.

On the Table Macon is a local iteration of a national movement that aims to bring community members together to talk to folks they may not otherwise encounter or spend time with. According to the event website, “On the Table is a one of a kind opportunity to bring people of diverse backgrounds together to share a meal and have meaningful conversation about topics that are important to the community.”

Here’s the idea: Throughout the day on Oct. 17, hosts will offer a “table” as a gathering spot — it could be in a home, at a restaurant or even on a picnic blanket. You can invite friends and family or offer a “public” table with spaces for people to join who you’ve never met. It can be a dutch treat snack, or you can spring for your guests to have a sumptuous feast. Or anything in between.

This is a Knight Foundation initiative, and On The Table Macon is led by Community Foundation of Central Georgia. There are a number of institutional partners and “superhosts,” including the Bibb County school district, Macon Housing Authority, Macon-Bibb County, Navicent Health and a number of neighborhood associations. Organizers stress, too, that they want underrepresented populations as well as the better known local institutions, “because all voices matter.”

You may have guessed that this is about more than just food; sharing a meal is a great way to socialize, but connections are the end goal. The event organizers have formulated a number of questions to prompt community-centered conversation throughout the day. You can use those – which include opportunities to share your ideas for community improvements—or raise your own questions.

I am very much looking forward to participating; my plan is to host an afternoon snack picnic on Coleman Hill (which is steps from my office), and I’m also hoping to join others’ tables with my sons in the evening. Who turns down free food and an opportunity to join together to solve local problems? Not this gal—especially with teenagers at home.

You can find more information about the event and register to be a host or superhost (hosting eight or more tables) at the event website: www.onthetablemacon.com. Public tables will be listed on the website beginning Monday, and you can sign up there to join a table that suits your schedule and interests. And if your plans are in flux or if you just do things at the last minute, guests can sign up to join a public table up to the day of the event. It’s also just fine — even idea l— for guests to “table hop” and visit a number of tables. If you’ve ever thought about “two Macons” or divisions in our community and wanted to do something about it, here’s your chance— with a low entry threshold. Take a look — and join On the Table Macon.

Sarah Gerwig is a law professor and word enthusiast raising her two sons in Macon.

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