Holding Courageous Conversations More Important Than Ever

Written by Greenwise Team
Published on September 5, 2019

Across the Table

with Lauren Grossman

Greenwise lawn
GROSSMAN’S FRONT GARDEN DESIGNED BY GREENWISE Lauren Grossman and her family have been Greenwise customers since moving into Evanston three summers ago. “We bought our home from a Greenwise client—everyone knew our home as ‘the Davids’ house.’ The front yard was landscaped so beautifully that we decided to continue with Greenwise for our lawn maintenance. It’s been a pleasure working with everyone at Greenwise; they all do a great job, and of course it’s a welcome relief that my kids and dog can romp around in a chemically-free lawn,” says Lauren. Greenwise has a lot of clients who are doing amazing things, and when we hear about them, we like to spread the word. In this time of divisiveness and nasty rhetoric, Lauren is working hard to elevate our conversations. She does this through her non-profit called Across the Table.

Holding Honest Conversations

Across the Table came to fruition back in 2008, when President Obama was elected. At the time, Lauren was running a nonprofit outdoor education program that she had started in Chicago. She had taught high school in Chicago and was recognized for having honest conversations with her students around race and socio-economics. “My colleagues were surprised at the honesty of conversations I was holding with my students and I thought, wouldn’t it be beneficial to offer the opportunity for adults to have these conversations in a fun and approachable event. Well, everyone loves to eat, so that’s when the idea for Across the Table was born,” says Lauren. Lauren had just moved to Lakeview and had grown up in suburban Detroit and was shocked at how homogenous this urban environment was. Despite her being raised in an affluent suburb, she was always surrounded by people from different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds and grew up believing diversity was normal, that having friends whose parents were immigrants was nothing extraordinary. She was surprised at how wrong that assumption was when she moved to the north side of Chicago. Part of her response to this homogeneousness was to start Across the Table in Chicago. She ran it for three years where it quickly grew with the help of some great media attention. She stopped when she had her first child but relaunched it in Evanston just after the 2017 presidential election. Across the Table’s mission is to host dinners on a first come, first served basis where everyone is invited to participate in honest conversations. Each dinner consists of a table of 12 diners, who are facilitated by a member from Across the Table’s team. Each dinner focuses on a different universal humanistic theme, such as, “What does it mean to have freedom?” or “Is telling the truth always the right thing to do?” or “What does it mean to be good?”

Meeting People Who See the World

Differently from You

“I believe it’s always beneficial to connect with people who see the world differently than you do. Having deep, meaningful conversations is a wonderful way to make human connections and delve into what makes us who we are and what gives us identity. “It’s first come, first served and while people always need to register in advance, I don’t know anything about them, aside from their names. I always come to the dinner and hope for diversity. But diversity isn’t always in the skin color. We think of diversity as being visible, but that isn’t always the case. Just because we share a skin color doesn’t mean that we share the same life experiences,” says Lauren. You don’t need to live in Evanston to participate in any of these dinners—all are welcome. I encourage you to check out the upcoming events below and take a look at Across the Table’s website to get more information on this unique organization. How often do we get the chance to escape our bubble and get to know people on a deeper level in a safe place? Not often enough in my humble opinion. I hope you’ll check it out.

Upcoming Across the Table events:

Each event costs $30/ticket for a delicious meal—either at a local restaurant, such as Found or the FarmHouse, or catered. If budget is a concern, you can ask for a $10 ticket—no questions asked. Sunday, Sept 8:  A fundraiser at Central Pizza Pie at Curt’s Café North on Central Street in Evanston. Families welcome from 5-7pm for pizza, salad and more. All benefits go to Across the Table. Casual and fun. $20/person. Monday, Sept. 23: In partnership with Dear Evanston and Family Focus. The dinner conversation will be “What does it mean to have freedom?” There are only five tickets left. Wednesday, Oct 16: In partnership with the Evanston Police Department. What does it mean to have power? Six police officers and six members of the community will participate at Koi restaurant on Davis Street in Evanston.
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