Last semester, I went to a College that wasn’t Judson. While I was there, I began to appreciate some things about Judson that I hadn’t given as much thought to as before. One of those was the sense of community.

One of the reasons I didn’t feel a strong sense of community at my school was that there was no place everyone gathered at once. Even orientation ran in rotations of smaller groups of students. I missed places like Chapel and the Cafeteria where large groups of students gather.

Sharing a meal together has always brought people together. However, people don’t always utilize this opportunity to foster community. It’s too easy to go, eat, and leave.

The Cafeteria Community:

s We swipe in, we eat, we leave.
a Swiping into a meal is to paying for the buffet option.
m Caf meals are buffet style.

s We wander around, looking for what to eat and where to sit.
a Getting to a table without bumping into someone is like bowling a perfect game.
m Sitting untouched is a perfect game.

s We sit at tables of two, four, or eight.
a Choosing a table is to choose your community.
m Tables are communities.

s We complain, even though people made food for us.
a Preparing food for college kids is to giving a toddler a pacifier. They will inevitably spit it out, cry, and want it again.
m College kids are toddlers.

s On fried-food days, the smell sticks to our clothes the rest of the day.
a Fried food smell after dinner is to burs after a hike.
m Fried food smell is a bur on my clothes.

s We shoot crumpled napkins into each others’ cups.
a Crumpled napkins and cups are to basketballs to hoops.
m Dinner is a pick-up game.

s Sometimes we take each others’ dishes just to be helpful.
a Taking someone else’ dishes is to complimenting someone.
m Serving is a compliment.

s Sometimes we sit with people we don’t know.
a To meet people is to reach out.
m Making friends is reaching out.

s Usually, we sit with people we do know.
a Eating with friends is to
m Eating with friends is

s Whether we sit with people we do or don’t know, we often ask the same questions.
a Sharing a meal is to rehearse for a play.
m Conversation is rehearsed.

Eating in the cafeteria has the potential to be a positive community-building experience, but many people don’t see it as that kind of opportunity. Instead, the cafeteria has a tendency to become a mundane part of every day – a place that serves my need to eat and relax between classes. People often get stuck in the routine of sitting with the same people, asking the same questions or making the same complaints.

Proposal: Conversation Cards
Each table would have a box or instruction card inviting people to participate by asking a question from a set of printed cards. These questions would help people engage with each other in a refreshing, approachable way.