Harnessed superpowers aid in community transformations
Did you know that we all have superpowers? It’s true! But sometimes we don’t know how to turn them on. Our powers don’t come with a set of instructions.
That’s where Open Table can help.
Open Table is a national model that communities can use to address any local need, one person at a time.
The idea is that six-to-eight community members come together to form a “table” to help a “friend” in need meet self-identified goals. Usually, a community member is trained as an Open Table facilitator, who recruits members of the community and works within the community to identify the friend, who is also at the table. The people at the table commit to meet weekly for at least one year or until the friend has reached their goals, whichever comes first.
Here in Maine, the Restorative Justice Project (RJP) has decided to pilot Open Table in Knox County to help people who are re-entering the community after being in jail. Open Table is part of RJP’s work to build Community Justice Centers in the midcoast area. For Knox County Community Justice Coordinator for RJP Erica Buswell, it’s a way to respond to a call she felt to “show up in the world in a way that could promote restoration.” Erica is working with Knox County Jail to identify two friends, and she’s actively recruiting table members now to convene two tables.
Erica gives an example of how the table might help a friend. If the friend has a goal of getting a job and has a car that doesn’t work, the people at the table can work together on getting the car fixed. Somebody at the table might know an auto mechanic and can introduce the friend to her.
Another example is a community that creates a table for youth who are transitioning from the foster care system to the adult world of social services. Open Table helps create a bridge to their new life.
Everybody who is part of Open Table benefits from the process, Erica explains. It’s not a one-way street where the friend receives help from others and gives nothing in return. It’s a model based on reciprocity; we are all enriched when we are in relationship with one another. When it comes to recovery, it’s not a model that says, “‘because you’re in recovery, you need all of these people to help you.’ It’s a model that says, ‘as a person in recovery, you have something to offer,’ and we can all be enriched by that.”
Erica is motivated by belief that everybody has something to contribute to their community. “We all come into this world with gifts to share,” she says. “When we can’t do that because of systemic or personal reasons, the world has been denied what we have to offer. We all have a responsibility to create conditions where people can show up and offer what we have to share. We’re all enriched by that. Our communities need us to show up that way.”
“Connection is what holds our social fabric together,” Erica says. “Open Table is one way to promote connection.”
Imagine if we could set an Open Table in every community in Maine to promote connection with people in recovery!