Meeting Strangers

By Bob Gerecke

The recent events concerning race relations have once again reminded us
that it's easy to ignore, write off or even dislike and despise entire
groups of people if we don't know them personally as real individuals. 
Some of our social divisions are racial; others are religious,
educational, occupational, or gender-based.  As Rodney King said, "Can't
we all just get along?"  We can if we meet and know people who are
unlike us, people with whom we don't usually mix.  That's not easy to
accomplish, since we all socialize and work with those who are like us. 
Even civic organizations attract specific types of members and
volunteers; others aren't comfortable there.

So here's a suggestion.

When the pandemic has subsided enough that it's safe to sit at a table
with strangers, every restaurant should have at least one community
table, if not more.  Single diners who want company, and couples and
small groups who want to step out of their own box, will find it
tempting and enjoyable to sit with and become acquainted with
strangers.  They will tell their friends about their interesting
encounters, and the practice will spread.  Even if a fraction of us do
this, it will make a difference.

This ought to appeal to restaurant operators.  It will draw in customers
who might not otherwise eat there or eat out at all.  It will add a
festive element to the ambience.  If one restaurant in a shopping area
does it, some others may follow in order to compete. If it's promoted
and practiced with the intent to increase our social cohesion, it will
be boosted by a moral and patriotic sense. It's worth a try.