Training communities through Open Table models to help people develop better lives they envision for themselves. We live out our mission through a theory of change expressed in our model, its training and through how we engage with our partners and each other. Look beyond the hats. Through our eyes. And into our hearts. That is where you will find the history of the Open Table Movement.
Open Table began through a local mission of my congregation, Paradise Valley United Methodist Church in Paradise Valley, Arizona. But the common good is our common mission. So, these days you will find Tables being developed by people in businesses, healthcare systems, service clubs, community organizations, congregations of different religions and in other places.
Ernie introduced himself to us at the local mission and we to him. As friendships developed, it became clear we had untapped resources Ernie could use as tools to develop the better life he envisioned for himself: social and intellectual capital – that’s who you know and what you know. We created a group we called a “board of directors” (now called a Table) and met together every week to support the plan Ernie developed for himself. We worked through both challenges and opportunities. But Ernie also had a resource we needed: an invitation to mutual relationship. We gave Ernie who we knew and what we knew. Ernie gave us who he was.
Open Table has been on a developmental journey from this story to an established model to transform people and communities that is recognized and practiced around the country and in Europe. Its foundations as a community practice are rooted in ongoing research and evaluation, sophisticated training and thought leadership from people served, Table members and national experts.
However, perhaps the true evidence of transformation is not in the numbers but in the living of our lives. Though Ernie and I are not geographically close to one another, Ernie and I have continued our relationship for fifteen years and text each other a greeting in the morning and evening every day. Translated, that means “I am here and present in your life. Reach out any time and I’ll be there.” And we have both lived into that promise.
Speaking from my own spiritual beliefs, I always saw myself in the parable of the “Good Samaritan” as the guy rescuing the other guy. And that’s how I saw myself when I met Ernie. But Ernie turned out to be the one sent to rescue me.