Dinner with a Stranger

by Franke James

stranger to vege dinner

stranger to vege dinner

email request for charity vege dinner

jack in the box and sucker

who is the stranger

Franke James as a sucker

photo-illustration of mattress

feeling good
Yonge Street Mission tax receipt

google mark shouldice

puzzle that  is mark shouldice

google mark shouldice

mark shouldice has chutzpah



guest towel

ask and you shall receive

artist and various plates

say yes


head idea growing

why it's a cool idea

stranger revealed



guest arrive wreath

Flash animation: mouseover the plates to see what we talked about

Writing, illustrations and photos by Franke James
Dinner with a Stranger © 2009 Franke James, MFA

The donation was made to The Yonge Street Mission which has been around for 113 years.



CBC does “Dinner with a Stranger”

CBC screenshot

The National and CBC radio’s The Spark shared Franke’s story of “Dinner with a Stranger” with their audiences.

Related Posts

CBC National TV: “Stranger for Christmas” by CBC video-journalist, Peter Wall.
CBC Radio: “Dinner with a Stranger” with Spark host, Nora Young.
Franke’s post: Just look where “Dinner with a Stranger” has led…

307 Responses: 155 Comments and 152 Tweets

  • Edouard says:

    As always Franke, this is a very nice post illustrating a great idea and concept.

    I really look forward to reading your next post. Meanwhile, take care and enjoy !

  • Michelle says:

    WOW! What an amazing story!!!! I love it and right now my mind is whirling with all of the possibilities!

  • Miranda says:

    I love it!

    What a great story – I’m so happy you said yes, and shared the story here. I hope that the idea catches on.

    5 or 6 years ago my husband and and I got a somewhat similar, completely random online request. Only, it wasn’t asking us for dinner – it was from an 18yr old kid across the country who had just graduated high school. His girlfriend had moved to our area and he felt he needed to come see her and see if they could make it work. And – here’s the kicker – could he come stay with us for 4-5 days in the process?

    I asked why he didn’t just stay in a hostel and he replied that hostels scared him. I asked how we – as complete strangers – didn’t scare him, and he explained that he loved our photography and he felt like he knew us through our art. We said yes.

    The thing with the girl didn’t work out, but not only do we still keep in contact with him but he went on to become a really amazing photographer, a career decision he credits to getting to stay with us and experience life in a photography studio for a few days that year. It’s a relationship that I treasure, and if we had never taken the leap for a totally bizarre request it never would have happened.

    I think we all need to get outside our comfort zones more often, and I think I’ll do some digging and invite myself over to dinner the next time I read about someone I want to get to know.


  • Franke James says:


    Thanks for sharing your story! Wow! What an amazing impact your kindness and willingness to trust yielded. Good for you!


    P.S. I can see why your photography inspired that young student. Fantastic work!


    Franke that’s *amazing*! Quirky, wonderful, amazing! Reading your post made my day.


  • what a truly cool example of simple grass roots humanity – as always I adore the way you present things -dinner included!

  • vijji says:

    Hi franke

    what a wonderful post – makes the waiting so totally worth it.

    i struggle to get my whole family together at the dinner table and here you are having complete strangers over!

    Thank you for sharing your experience- give me hope :)

  • Hilary Hall says:


    Spoiled on three fronts:

    1) A FABULOUS dinner (kudos again to Bill!!)

    2) Delightful company (more than we could ever have asked from strangers)

    3) A representation of the evening that captures the true spirit of the encounter.

    I look forward to sharing this with all the friends and family that said “You’re doing what?”

    Thank you again for such a magical time.


  • LaDonna Coy says:

    Wow Franke — You’ve done it again and again and again! This is a remarkable story in so many ways and your visual telling of it is superb! Words and images were meant to go together just like peas and carrots, chocolate and peanut butter and yes, kindred spirits who start out as strangers but become friends.

    The story made me think about invitations are like seeds of possibility and how we often are captive behind a hard outer shell of fear or distrust or whatever we name the things that keep us from reaching out or allowing others in. So much wrapped up in an authentic, generous invitation offered and accepted. What could happen indeed if this idea were to spread?

    Thank you and Bill, Mark and Hilary – for showing at least one way to reach in/out to each other. And now to blog this fabulous story among my circle of friends and colleagues and readers — Wonder what will be born of this idea that might create new community ties?


  • Franke, you’re brilliant. *Love* this and can’t wait to share it!!

  • Bronwyn says:

    Wonderful story!

  • karen shouldice says:

    Franke and Bill,

    Such intrigue and excitement you unwittingly injected into our Christmas gift exchange! Just when we thought ideas couldn’t get more ingenious, in stepped the S.W.A.S. (supper with a stranger) fork. Thank you for not deleting the proposal.

    Mark has provided our family with 31 years of surprises (mostly OK ones!). Paired with Hil, we knew you were in for an interesting encounter.

    Your blog is absolutely delicious – so many seeds sown in such a delightful way. You just never know where a grassy driveway will lead.

    Mark’s Mom

  • Mary Stevenson says:

    Wonderfully wacky and fun but I’m happy to see that you did some research before agreeing to the request.

    You two are an inspiration and the Yonge Street Mission is a very worthwhile charity.

  • Hello Franke,

    Thank you for your e-mail. I was in awe as I read your amazing blog. It was heartwarming to read how everything fit together perfectly, from Mark’s ask, to you being inspired by the Mission’s advertising, to the dinner with a “stranger”.

    It is a wonderful story, one that I really feel can help the Mission.

    Warm wishes,


    Barbara Walkden
    Director of Development
    Yonge Street Mission
    270 Gerrard Street East
    Toronto, On M5A 2G4

  • Mahki Jani says:

    I loved reading “Dinner with a Stranger”. Great stuff!

  • BLOGGED: Dinner With a Stranger

    Imagine that a total stranger sends you an email inviting himself and a friend over to your place for dinner, in exchange for which he’d contribute $200 to charity. Would you say yes, prepare a meal and see what’s in store? That is exactly what local artist Franke James (of un-paving paradise fame) did, and now she’s trying to get the idea to spread.

    Franke’s latest visual essay chronicles the experience, from the initial email appearing in her inbox to almost magical conclusion. And now, in the comments, we’ve already heard from The Stranger’s mom and the Yonge Street Mission – Franke’s charity of choice – and now Franke and The Stranger are sharing ideas of how to expand upon this concept as a larger-scale fundraiser.

    I had a little chat with Franke about what was on her mind hosting this dinner, and what’s on her mind now

  • Mary Ann Grainger says:

    Franke James does it again. I keep wishing I led her life, had her talent, insight and sense of wonder. As always Franke, you’re an inspiration!

    What could possibly be next?

  • Dosh Dosh says:


    I liked your visual essay about ‘Dinner With a Stranger’. Great idea! Just submitted it on Digg –>

    Maki Dosh Dosh

  • Sharon Howarth says:

    What a FANTASTIC story. The creativity of the grass roots. This is where the solutions lie.

    Thank you so very much for sharing, Franke


  • Heather says:

    Such a great concept! And I’m so glad that he picked you so that we could all benefit from your documenting the experience. This really could be a movement. What possibilities!

  • Franke James says:

    Site is up again… Sorry for the hiccups! We got Dugg, Reddit, and Twittered! So we moved to a new server.

    Many thanks for your interest,


  • Zachary Kent says:


    I came to this through Reddit and it is awesome in every way, I enjoyed the format and the story. I call strangers every week to talk to them on my podcast and it’s an amazing and rewarding experience every time. The concept of Dinner with Strangers is fantastic and this post really made my day.

  • Great story! I loved the illustrations to liven up the text. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I found this through

  • lin says:

    Wow….this is so inspiring. I wannna do this. Veggie dishes all around! WOO HOO~

  • James says:

    Brought a smile to my face :)

  • Interesting, there’s a partial risk in letting a stranger to your house. Suffice to say I’d be a little more concerned about letting some random person who seems to know you more then you know them (if at all anything you know about them).

    Nice story, and thankfully it played out well.

  • Tetea says:

    This is the first time I visited your site (thanks to digg) and I have to say this is a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.

    I hope to hear more wonderful experiences…


  • Imagine that a total stranger sends you an email inviting himself and a friend over to your place for dinner, in exchange for which he’d contribute $200 to charity. Would you say yes, prepare a meal and see what’s in store? That is exactly what Toronto artist Franke James did, and now she’s trying to get the idea to spread.

    (via Digg)

  • Bela Der says:

    Thank you so much for the heart warming story. It shows such trust, care and thoughtfulness I hope that others take up the cause.

    Brought a tear and a smile to my face.

  • Ian says:

    That was a refreshing read. I love the flow and illustrations. Kudos to everyone for doing something good and sharing in the experience!


  • Wonderingwelshman says:

    I found your wonderful article on Digg, a truly wonderful and inspiring concept! One can only hope to hear similar adventures occur in the future!


  • this?

    is ridiculously cool.

  • Elizabeth says:

    What a fabulous idea and wonderful way to pay it forward. I’m actually thinking about doing something similarly here in Massachusetts.

    Thank you Franke for posting your experience in what can be said a very colorful way. And Thank you to Mark the “stranger” for taking the first step.

  • Kevin P. Fagan says:

    An amazing story! This is a great idea!

    I love to travel by myself for the sole purpose of FORCING myself to meet people I otherwise wouldn’t have to talk to if I were with friends or families. Americans (of which I am proud to be) have grown far too fearful of the unknown -strangers being what we seem to fear most.

  • Paul Ayotte says:

    Digg has found you a new reader. You brought a smile to my face today.

  • Kwasmosis says:

    Hey Franke,

    Like many of the people here, I found your site through Digg. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article.

    Thank you for the story and wonderful idea.

  • Bill says:

    What an interesting story. A year or two ago, we had a related experience. My son’s girlfriend has a friend who plays world of warcraft extensively, and she eventually “met” a guy online who she grew to like a lot and wanted to meet in person. Of course we were cautious about this, but we eventually allowed the young man to fly in from Seattle to Dallas to stay with us (rather than directly with her) so he could meet the girl. We didn’t know him from Adam, but he turned out to be legit and they still see each other from time to time and talk online regularly.

  • SuperRawGirl says:

    Wow! What a great idea! I love the story, and it shows we are not all strangers out there in the universe. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • tellos says:

    I loved the story!!!!

  • Sara says:

    Actually, that is just a great idea. We might even consider this idea to be spread here- thanks for this awesome input.

  • Ryan says:

    That was actually quite inspiring. Nice delivery, I liked the illustrations. It stretched out the pacing of what was actually a very short story, and it made me enjoy it more than I would have if you’d just made a simple blog about it or something.

    Well done! :)

  • Hi!

    First, this was a wonderful story. I picked it up on Reddit. I’ve never seen your site before so it was kind of a double treat.

    I love the concept. I work for the St. Petersburg Times in Tampa Florida. I think I’m going to try and figure out how to make this concept work for a story idea locally.

    Have you ever seen The sentiment of this sort of reminds me of the idea behind that.

    Well thanks for sharing this. I look forward to doing this myself in the future and also reading more of your work.


    Tristan Wheelock

  • Rystefn says:

    This is a great story, and I can’t wait to share it with people.

  • Tom Sagar says:

    What an uplifting story.
    Congratulations to Mark for his chutzpah and to Franke for her intuition that all would be well. When you are open to surprises, one can never contain the joy that emerges.

  • Franke James says:


    Thanks! I appreciate your comment. Many people are reflexively cynical. While a glance at the newspaper shows why there are many reasons to be careful, we also need to trust our ability to intelligently assess situations and people so that we can take advantage of new opportunities — and experience as you say the “joy that emerges”.



  • Davy says:

    Wow, best story i read in a long time.
    Really cool idea …

  • Sam Stimpson says:

    Enjoyed This, Thank You!

  • Timothy says:

    Crazy! Crazy awesome

  • […] Would you have dinner with a stranger? Read on… […]

  • Debb says:

    This is a fascinating idea!

  • Scott says:

    I loved that story! I too would like to try it and see what happens. Small kindnesses can really make a difference, I have a story about a year of free coffee for strangers on my blog that is also pretty neat, but on a much smaller scale. : )

    – Scott

  • Ben Levy says:

    That’s such a wild idea, but I probably would have done the same thing. I’m glad it all worked out.

  • Blogged by John David Mann

    Dinner with a Stranger:

    “We teach our kids not to talk to strangers. But some of our best conversations have been with strangers.” So says The Stranger, in this charming pictorial-adventure-diary from Franke James, Toronto-based founder and editor of the blog Office-Politics®.

    Last August Franke wrote an extremely engaging and thoughtful piece about The Go-Giver (she even posted her own go-givers list of forty-five specific people).

    Franke just shared a remarkable story with us that seemed so go-giverish, we had to share it with you…. read more

  • Blogged by Cynthia Paniagua

    Good is not measured, it’s just good.

    I was going thru my digg list a couple of days ago and I came across this post “Dinner with a stranger”. The title of course drew me in immediately and I had to see what it was all about.

    The premise is simple: A man looking for an eco-friendly gift for his family annual secret xmas draw went online trying to figure out what to get. In his search, he came across Franke James’ website ( and was really taken by her eco-friendly views and wanted to know more. This inspired him to write an email to her and invite not only himself, but the person who he drew from the xmas draw to Franke’s house for dinner… read more

  • Gary Hobley says:

    Hi Franke,

    I am a follower of the Go-Giver and a recent blog there alerted me to your story. I found it fascinatingly heart warming. In a world which seems so protective and fearful, you have conveyed a way to break through the barriers.

    It has me thinking that we may be able to employ this idea here in Australia to help raise funds for our youth employment project.

    Thankyou for your whimsical and engaging way of communicating to our cynical world. You made my day just like those who have responded before me.


  • Franke James says:

    Hi Gary,

    My thanks to John David Mann for the wonderful Go-Giver article that connected us!

    So terrific to read your comment on my Dinner with a Stranger essay. I’m delighted to hear that you are considering ways to use this concept to raise funds for your Youth Employment project.

    I think there is lots of scope to tailor this concept to suit your needs. The beauty of “Dinner with” or “Lunch with” is that it is an honor for the person who is asked to “host” — but not so much of a time commitment that it is a burden.

    I know in my life that I’ve met many wonderful people who have achieved great things. And the amazing thing is that when you sit down and talk with them they are often so human and so down to earth that it often made me think, “If they can do it, I can do it.”

    I hope that your project will raise funds — and act as an inspiring influence.



  • Kathryn Hall says:

    Hi, Franke! This is a fabulous idea, and you are definitely on the right track to spread the word as I’m certain there are many many people who could (and will) employ to raise funds for the causes that are dearest to their hearts. I’m seeing a group of kids doing this to meet their need to raise funds for something they care about. (I don’t know why that came up, but it did!) I will help spread the word! Thanks!

  • In our community, there are tons of us working on food security, food mapping and a food charter. I think your idea is brilliant and I am going to see if we can make it happen here!

  • Cherice Gilliam says:

    This is a great story with even better illustrations. My mind is swirling on how can I use this for our non-profit youth group. Better yet to help small business help jump start the economy…WOW what a concept….help Mother Earth and the people that live on it…thanks Franke


    Who doesn’t love a good story? And if you want to add a message to your story, your story better be good. And Franke James’s visual essays are exactly that. Great visuals peppered with socially relevant messages!

    “Dinner with a Stranger” shows us how an idea sprouted after a slightly reluctant agreement to host a dinner for two strangers. “12,000 Sitting Ducks” calls for action after an unfortunate incident takes place. The same essay also makes use of drawings, YouTube video screenshots, Google maps and much more. In “To My Future Grandkids in 2020”, she wonders “will you call us crazy for filling up pools with drinking water?”

    read more…

  • “If you got an email from a stranger, who said they’d donate $200 to a charity of your choice if you had them to a vegetarian dinner, would you say yes?”

    That’s the question Franke James answers for herself, in her dinner with a stranger blog post.

    It’s a great story, and if you haven’t seen Franke’s blog, her graphic blog posts are worth it just for the visual presentation.

  • Kevin says:

    We do this a lot at my church to raise money for the church. It is often still dinner with a stranger since there are lots of folks you don’t really know at church. Nice side effect: one less stranger at church the next week! We raise thousands every year this way.

  • […] This is not only a great idea…but the most engaging post I have ever read, please click through and read it here. Thanks to Fundraising Breakthroughs […]

  • Blogged by TA2:

    …And so marks the opening statement of Franke James’ most recent artistic diary/social experiment…

    James is now set on developing “Dinner With A Stranger” into a charity event…

    Question is, if your safety was entirely guaranteed, would you like to have dinner with a stranger? I would definitely be game. Who’s cooking?

    read more

  • Faye says:

    Meghan Cox (Hilary’s friend) told us about this very cool idea! I’m very impressed and inspired by all involved. I’m passing this on to my friends so we can create something similar.

    Faye Morgan
    Orlando FL

  • says:

    Blogged: Dinner with a stranger

    Franke James received an unusual email from a stranger who invited himself and a guest to dinner at her house…in exchange for a $200 charitable donation. Read the rest in James’ illustrated story.

    By Jason Kottke

  • Bill Job says:

    Wow, what a story! I have to admit, I don’t think I would have gone for this idea. But kudos to you for taking a risk. What a cool idea!

  • RM Cotton says:

    This is an amazingly inspirational story! I will strive to go outside of my comfort area here to fore!

  • lauren says:

    Hi there – i’d sure be willing to have dinner with a stranger if it would help generate funds for the kids with hiv/aids, lepers, and orphans in India that i work for through Chapel Missions – Calvary Chapel Boise. if anyone’s interested in having me over – sure, I’ll come. it’s not for me, it’s for them and they deserve our very best effort. looking forward to meeting you!

  • Franke James had dinner with a stranger, and it sounds really awesome.


  • Aubrey says:

    Am very tempted to do something similar. Cheers!

  • I don’t know who Franke James is…

    but I quickly get the sense that if I was crazy-eco-conscious I would.

    Either way, this is a pretty cool account of a pretty cool situation and a pretty cool idea: Dinner With A Stranger

    If you had your choice, who would your $200 charitable-donation-dinner-partner be?


  • […] Franke James » Blog Archive » Dinner with a Stranger. If you got an email from a stranger who said they’d donated $200 to the charity of your choice IF you’d have them (and a friend) to a vegetarian dinner, would you say yes? Tags: links […]

  • Would you have dinner with a stranger?…

    Franke James, “an author, artist, photographer and writer”, received an email from a stranger in which he told her that he’d donate $200 to a charity of her choice if she had him and a friend over for a (vegetarian) dinner. Did she do…

  • Beautiful in many ways: Dinner with a stranger (via). Spread the word.

  • Kristin says:

    I LOVE this idea. What a creative way to inadvertently raise funds for a favorite cause, meet more people and enjoy a nice dinner. Thanks for sharing it!

  • Blogged:

    If a stranger invited himself to your house for dinner and offered to give $200 to the charity of your choice in payment, would you accept? Franke James did.

    The idea is brilliant and in the beautifully illustrated post James points out how this could have great applications to help non-profits. Well worth a read on a Saturday morning.

    read more…

  • Check out this really cool illustrated essay on dinner with a stranger by Canadian artist/author/green person Franke James.

  • Would you make dinner to a stranger if the stranger donated 200 dollars to your favorite Charity? Read this fun story. The drawings are great!

  • Angelina says:

    A wonderful idea, and you are amazing to trust and to think out of the box by taking this risk. To be sure, you both got rewarded in many ways. Bravo!

  • Yorkali says:

    How absolutely wonderful and touching…..

  • BLOGGED: Dinner with a Stranger
    By Brian Chesney – Feb 21st, 2009 at 7:50 pm EST

    Franke James has a great post on her blog about an offer she received around Christmas: $200 to the charity of her choice in exchange for one night of dinner. Only the catch is, the the person making the offer was a complete stranger. Read her post to see how it went — reminds me of the great community spirit that organizing can capture.


  • mamie says:

    Really awesome story. A friend just linked this in an email and I loved reading the whole experience. I would totally do it, but then I love things like this and believe in the power of connection, of those seeking to find and finding the thing they seek.

    And why are you Canadians so freakin cool? Sorry, I have a small fascination with all things Canadian. This would be one of the reasons.

  • Joanne Mills says:

    OMG I loved it Franke. The story kept me interested right to the end. I love short stories, but only if they have great pictures. I loved the pictures. They were perfect…. The best part was where the husband did the cooking. I loved it.
    Joanne Mills

  • nousha says:

    loved it ! :)

  • Eco-activist Franke James was invited in an e-mail by a stranger to dine with her (in her home) and in exchange have $200 contributed to the charity of her choice? Would you do it? At what price?

    The question raises social capital questions of trust of strangers and raises interesting questions of when chance encounters lead to interesting new ties.

    read more

  • Beautiful! Gorgeous! Inspiring. I would totally do it. Yes I would. But would I be the host or the guest? Either is a bit strange in this scenario, but enticing as well.

    Oh, by the way, I found your blog through Karen Hanrahan who found it through through Marguerite Manteau Rao. Hope I can keep the chain going…

  • Zereh says:

    What a splendid reminder that we need to keep ourselves open so that opportunities can bowl us over and change our thinking and enrich our lives.

    I love real people happy stories. I’m going to sincerely try to live at least one story like that in each day of my life.


  • Liz allan says:

    I am a friend of Mark’s mom and we were discussing this encounter last nite at our Book Club meeting and I was so impressed with this idea and just want to wish success in this venture blossoming. Liz Allan

  • Milena says:

    I just stumbled onto your blog and I’m so very impressed. Wonderful storytelling in a truly unique way. I’m “favoriting” you.

  • What would you do if a stranger emailed you and asked to have dinner at your house? This cool story (with pretty artwork) is all about having dinner with a stranger – for charity!

  • Elizabeth says:

    This was so fun to read! What a fantastic idea! A great gift, and a great cause. I love it!

  • LaDonna Coy says:

    Blogged by Technology in Prevention:

    Would You Do What Franke Did?

    Some of you may have missed previous posts (and here) about the brilliant visual essays of Franke James over at My Green Conscience. She’s written about The Real Poop on Social Change, 12, 000 Sitting Ducks, Paradise Unpaved and more. Never fear, she’s done it again.

    Franke’s visual essays are remarkable. Her stories reflect all of the best of what stories can be in both content and visuals so I know you will want to take 3 minutes to read her most recent work, Dinner with a Stranger…

    read more

  • Carolynn says:

    I stumbled onto this post completely by accident…if you believe in those….no, me either.

    What fun! This is such an absurdly outrageous proposal in this day of arms length, e-mail relationships that it completely captivates me. How wonderful that you took Mark up on his invitation. Excellent example of what good can come from being bold!

  • This just made tough old me tear up a little bit. So, so awesome!

  • Blogged on Eggplantia

    Franke James / Dinner with a Stranger

    (tags: art inspiration social charity dinner stranger humanity experiment awesome fundraising blog food)

  • Jennifer says:

    Cool! My place is a mess, so if I got an email like this I’d ask if I could take them to a vegetarian restaurant (my treat) instead. Would that count?

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