News that makes a difference: The Virtual Dinner Guest Project

What would it be like if evening dinner conversations replaced evening news reports? And what if those dinner conversations were between people living in different countries? Maybe people might walk away from such a dinner with a very full heart. That is what one man dared to hope would happen.

Virtual dinner

COMPUTERS CONNECT us.  “Or do they really?” some people might ask. Whatever you think, thanks to computers people today can learn more about our world than ever before. Like anything else, we make communication what it is. It doesn’t have to be artificial—even if it still isn’t the same as being next to a person. 

     When Eric Maddox started the Virtual Dinner Guest Project in 2012, he was sure that people talking directly to each other (even if it was through a computer screen) would be more meaningful than what people learned about each other through the news—through someone else’s eyes. The idea was both simple and profound all at the same time—and was his way of trying to heal some of the misunderstanding in the world today. But, you might be thinking, it’s not easy to talk to strangers—especially if those strangers are from countries that have been enemies. That’s when the idea of sharing a meal together made everything seem possible. “Sharing a meal is a custom that crosses borders—and there’s an instant connection in realizing that despite where we come from, we are all human,” answered Eric in reply to the question “Why food?”  

     The Virtual Dinner Guest project is not only a way to bring unity, but a way to bring change. It changes the people who are a part of it: how they think and view things. And that’s important, because Eric wanted the result of this project to be more than just talk. He hoped people would think and live differently after the dinner experience. Each year the project expands to include more people and countries, and now includes a community service project in the weeks after the dinner. 

     In my own view, I think the idea of bringing people together over a meal is important because a special, tasty meal means something pleasant to everyone. When we sit and eat together we feel more comfortable with each other. We have a feeling of being more at home with others—like having a meal with our family. Talking together over meals can improve not only how we view each other, but also help us understand ourself better.   

 Tonya [native language, Ukrainian] 

You can learn more about the Virtual Dinner Guest Project here:

 ©preInterestEng. July 2013  §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff or used with permission.  §  To contact us: