Just look where “Dinner with a Stranger” has led…

by Franke James

illustration by Franke James

illustration by Franke James

The unlikely results of “Dinner with a Stranger”

I never expected that by saying “yes” to one dinner with a stranger last Christmas, that I’d still be talking about it one year later. The dinner took place last January and benefited the Yonge Street Mission. I created a visual essay about it called “Dinner with a Stranger.” (See the original essay here.)

When the essay first launched, it quickly got picked up by Digg, Reddit, Kottke, BlogTO, etc. It was so popular, our server crashed. Some resourceful people mirrored it on other sites while we frantically worked to move to a server with cloud computing (the advantage being expandable bandwidth).

What was the response?

I heard from people who had similar experiences,

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. Five or six years ago my husband 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….”

I heard from people who were admiring but fearful,

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.”

I heard from people who were touched,

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.”

I heard from people who were inspired,

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.”

I heard from people who were having lunches instead of dinners,

Wonderful posting! Communities In Schools (a national, private nonprofit dropout-prevention initiative) hosts an annual “Lunch with a Leader” where people bid for lunch with various celebrities with the proceeds going to help CIS. Thanks for the posting!”

I heard from people who wanted to make it happen in their town,

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.”

And then I heard from…

CBC screenshot

folks at the CBC who wanted to spread the story on TV and radio….

CBC television’s The National and CBC radio’s The Spark both contacted me separately and wanted to share the story of “Dinner with a Stranger” with their audience. Wow! The same story told in two different mediums.

And the magic of the story worked for TV and radio audiences too…

“Just saw your spot on the CBC- awesome!! And I really liked that idea of dinner for charity, what a refreshing change from mainstream consumerism!” Facebook comment

What a great idea with an even better cause! Your creative flow is inspiring and heart warming not to mention hilarious! Just caught it on CBC News and found myself totally absorbed by the report. I guess I’ll keep this in mind for my next big surprise to my partner. Thank you! Happy Festive Season!”

How lovely! Both the Dinner with a Stranger and your totally entertaining website… How did I know about this? Doing my year-end taxes while listening to the CBC and was so intrigued by the story I just had to search you out. What a pleasure. Happy holidays!”

Check out the stories for yourself… Each creative team brought new creativity and added a new dimension to the experience of “Dinner with a Stranger”.

Watch “Stranger for Christmas” by CBC video-journalist, Peter Wall.

CBC screenshot

Listen to Dinner with a Stranger” with host, Nora Young:

CBC Spark screenshot

The Spark is hosted by Nora Young with creative, research and technical assistance by Elizabeth Bowie and Dan Misener. [DWAS interview runs from 17:11 to 24:54]

Is this the end of the “Dinner with a Stranger” story?

Nope. It’s just the beginning. In the New Year, I’ll tell you the story of my Dinner with a Stranger in Sweden. It took place while I was attending the UN climate change talks in Copenhagen in December 2009.

photo of dinner in sweden by Franke James

I also look forward to hearing whether you would say “yes” to dinner with a stranger.

My best wishes to you for a wonderful holiday, and happy, healthy and green 2010.

In honor of the first Dinner with a Stranger I’ve made a donation to the Yonge Street Mission for their Christmas dinners for the homeless.

close-up photo of Franke's Christmas tree


Just look where “Dinner with a Stranger” has led… © 2009 Franke James

Illustrations, photos and writing by Franke James, MFA except as noted:

Screen shots from CBC National News and CBC Radio The Spark.

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