In the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to get caught up in activities. Sometimes we sacrifice spending time with others so we can tick off those last few boxes. In the post-secondary environment, where students face intense pressure to succeed, this is especially true. In response, students resort to stress-relievers that are either beneficial or detrimental. For a group of Navigators at Carleton University, stress relief came in the form of monthly potluck dinners.
Known as the Sunnyside and Area Community Dinners, students from six houses on Sunnyside Avenue and nearby side streets came together once a month during the 2014 winter semester to share a potluck meal and connect with each other.
Saralyn Tyler, who came up with the idea, says she saw a need for this in the neighbourhood. “I would bump into somebody on the street, or on the bus or on campus and got the sense that everybody was really busy and that we needed to be more intentional about being in community, encouraging each other and getting away from the busyness of life and school.”
She says the dinners were limited to one neighbourhood and kept small so “people could have one-on-one conversations and be comfortable chatting with people when they came. Kind of like a big family dinner.” In order to keep this dynamic, she says creating more groups is preferable to expanding one group. “There’s something really beautiful about keeping these gatherings small and how every neighbourhood can relate in different ways because of the way they’re set up. Each one is different; it’s got its own quirks and different stories.”
Matt Kang, one of the participants, says “my favourite aspect was how the doors remained opened long after the meals had ended. Throughout the week, on my walk back from campus, I often found myself dropping in on different houses to say ‘hi’. When I’d walk through the door, I would find others already doing the same!”
There are many ways to address the needs of a community. These dinners were a vehicle for students to connect more with each other. The Navigators intentionally seek to build relational connections and meet practical needs. It can be something seemingly ordinary, like shoveling a neighbour’s driveway, or something much larger. But regardless of how it’s done, Navigators embrace a calling that transforms the lives of people through tangible acts of love.