A Generous Helping

Dining with Purpose

Words by Iesha Boitmann Photos by Ashley Haguewood

Monthly generosity dinners in Austin gather people to pour wine, pool money, share stories, and meet needs.

Friends passed the plates, poured the wine, and began their monthly conversation of who to help. While this same group of people have gathered around the same table for a while, one dinner guest nearly dropped her fork as she realized her sister had been in financial trouble, and she had never thought to share. As a single mom, Wendi’s sister had fallen behind and was saving up to repair some basic necessities in her home. As Wendi shared the story, everyone at the table realized there were people close to them with
similar stories; there just wasn’t a practice of acknowledging them. It was that night the group saw the meaning of the dinners they had been participating in: to break the stigma of needing help, not just for themselves, but for the people they loved. That night, Wendi’s sister received an anonymous check in the mail, but more importantly, she knew she was not alone.

Right here in Austin, this group has been keeping the rhythms of monthly dinners for over three years, but the hope is that they will be new to neighborhoods and kitchen tables around the city. Over time, they have experienced firsthand the value of practicing awareness for the needs around them. “When we started doing the dinners, we spent 4 months around a table lamenting the fact that we didn’t know anyone in need, and then we realized we weren’t asking our friends how they were actually doing,” dinner host, Brian Boitmann, reminisces. Brian and his wife equip dinner hosts to facilitate dinners in their own homes. Some hosts are a part of their church, but many are people passionate about untidy, complex, and authentic community. Typically 8-12 people, every dinner is unique to the people attending, and the needs presented. “It sounds weird to say, but now I actually get excited to know someone AND their need. I know a table full of people who want to help,” says Brian.

Generosity dinners began in Oakland, California, by an organization called Common Change. The idea was born out of a group of people who set money aside weekly, and at the end of the month, they would see how much money had been pooled. Seeing that the money grew quickly, they collaborated around the table about how to creatively meet needs. This led to the birth of their non-profit. Their platform allows for any group, anywhere, to pool money, meet and talk about needs, vote on the need they want to give to, and have 100% of the money (anonymous or not) delivered to the person. Meeting needs may mean filling someone’s apartment with balloons after a job loss, helping cover an unexpected car repair, or sending a struggling family to a nice meal out. Regardless of the gift, it’s a powerful practice of mindfulness, creativity, and abundance.

Want to host a dinner? Email brian.boitmann@commonchange.com

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