I love a good story. I love how a book can make your heart see life in a new way, how it can inspire you to try something new or give someone another chance. Stories are powerful and our stories are the most important ones for us to tell. We have the loudest voice when we share what happens in our lives. You know that moment when you've read a book or saw a movie and then you find out it's true - it hits you differently. The story has more meaning. Today, I get to share an amazing story with you about how dinner connected one woman in Massachusettes to a school in Nepal. When I read her story, it honestly brought tears to my eyes. There are times in life where we get to actually see the ripple effect. Where the dots connect and we have a fleeting moment where we can see that what we are doing really does make a difference. Telling our stories connects the dots. It's in the story telling that we can see the bigger picture. Take time today or this week to think about your own story. How does your every day life connect you to ways to love on people? They don't have to be half way across the world, it could be your own family. But, jot it down, message me, send me photos! I want to hear your story. I would love to share it. Our stories connect us and inspire those around us to see their life differently.
How did you get connected to CiderPress Lane?
I first discovered CiderPress Lane after they liked a photo of mine on Instagram. The beautiful photos and food images drew me in until I happened across a mention of their community dinners. Good food, meaningful relationships and serving others are values that echo deeply in me and my boyfriend. The idea inspired me to think about what was possible at my very own dining room table.
What gave you the boost to host your own dinner?
After discovering the idea of community dinners, I preordered 'Dinner Changes Everything', particularly excited about the guide to hosting my own. I shared the idea with my boyfriend, Ryan, who was immediately on board. Fear kept me from hosting one for quite a few months. In my tiny apartment, it seemed outlandish to ask friends to come over and pay money for dinner with us, even if it was a donation. When Kelly advertised the idea of the Big Love Feast for Valentine's Day, it sparked an idea. I was heading to Nepal a few days after, and I'd read that many tourists bring gifts for the villagers, particularly the children. They recommended toothbrushes and toothpaste or school supplies. I'm a mother and teacher, so the idea of school supplies stuck. Asking friends to go to the dollar store and purchase school supplies to donate was a lot less intimidating for me. After consulting with Ryan, we decided to open up our first Valentine's Day together to include one of his best friends and his girlfriend, who we knew valued travel and philanthropy as much as we did. They accepted, enthusiastically asked how many supplies they should bring, and the rest was history. Starting small and knowing I'd have an immediate connection with the beneficiaries was the big boost that got me over my fear.
How did you get connected to the school in Sapana, Nepal?
My sister and I had discovered and booked a stay at the Sapana Village Eco-Lodge in Sauraha, Nepal because of their elephant rescue program. My sister works for an animal rescue league, and I love elephants. Once we did some more research we discovered that Sapana was an umbrella for several social projects, including a Women's Development Center and the Sapana School, a Montessori-inspired preschool for the local children. When we got to the Eco-Lodge, I told the manager about the donations and asked how I should distribute them. Before I knew it, he had introduced me to a friend of the founders who was responsible for training the teachers and reforming the school. I was given a tour of the school and introduced to the general manager, Ichchha. I presented our donation and we fell into a broken conversation about our kids, teaching, and how education differed between Nepal and the US. Before leaving, they gifted me with a handcrafted journal with a personal note inside. Now, thanks to Facebook, we're able to maintain a direct connection that will last beyond this dinner and adventure.
What was that like getting to deliver the items your dinner brought together?
4. What was that like getting to deliver the items your dinner brought together? - The delivery of the donations was not what I imagined at all! I imagined having a bag as I walked through the village and handing out the items piecemeal to those I met, or perhaps turning the bag over to the manager at the hotel to bring to the school later. Having the unique opportunity to tour the school and meet those responsible for building the program gave me a deeper understanding of the needs of the community and how the school is answering them. Sitting with Ichchha for the better part of an hour bonding over our children and our shared passion for teaching sent me away feeling fulfilled and inspired. By the time I left, the items that I'd brought were merely the key that opened the gate for the true connections and exchange of ideas and friendships that I'll remember the rest of my life.
What would you say to someone who's thinking about hosting a meal?
Start anywhere. Really. Fear is an incredibly powerful thing that prevents so much good from happening. Start small, start with a friend, start with an existing group in your church/school/community. Find a cause that resonates deeply with you and allows you to put your whole heart into it. Passion is the best motivator and it's contagious.
We couldn't agree more with Briana! Passion is contagious - we can't wait to hear your stories about how you are connecting the dots in your own lives. Let's keep pushing back fear and living the stories our hearts are longing for - Kelly