Cara Coleman: What Open Table has meant to me

I’m not sure I could ever put into words what my experience with Open Table this past year has meant to me.

To explain, I first need to give some of my personal history. My father passed away when I was 10, and while this was devastating, the years that followed showed me what it was like to be supported by friends, family, and community. I have been incredibly blessed and am so grateful for the outpouring of love I have, and continue to, receive in so many forms. Because of this, the first time I learned about Open Table, I was instantly drawn to the model. This was an opportunity to be able to give back in a similar and direct way what I had been given for several years.

However, I certainly did not realize just how impactful the upcoming year would be. Being a part of this Table has truly taught me what the word “transformational” means – a word we use a lot in The United Methodist Church. Not only has this been a transformational experience for me, but I know it has also been so for our sister Casey, and each and every member of the Table.

“Poverty” has been completely redefined: what it looks like or how it acts. As Jon Katov, the founder of Open Table, says, “It redefines a measure of ‘poverty’ to a measure of ‘human potential.’” Instead of running away from poverty as something that is shameful and negative, we could run towards the belief in human potential and embrace true relationship with one another.

I have witnessed astounding accomplishments within our Table, and they stemmed solely from the power of intentional community.

I know community development and organization is extremely challenging and often frustrating or disheartening, but my passion for it has only been renewed through this process. Open Table works. And more than anything, it has honestly given me an amazing gift of hope. I will never forget how it has changed the lives of each new and dear friend on the Table, and I will certainly never forget how it has changed my life.

Cara Coleman is a junior at Arizona State University where she is majoring in political science and global studies and minoring in leadership management. She also is the student assistant for the Valley Wesley Foundation.

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