Breakfast with Strangers: A cross-country quest for community

Breakfast with Strangers: A cross-country quest for community »Play Video
Courtney Dillard and Matt Webber (at the far end of the table) started asking strangers to breakfast in order to foster community. They plan to do the same thing as they travel across the country and blog about their experiences. Then they plan to write a book. (KATU News photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. - At the Tin Shed Garden Café in Northeast Portland five people laugh and ask about each other's lives like they're old friends, but they were complete strangers until just weeks ago.

That's when Matt Webber and his fiancée, Courtney Dillard, started asking strangers to breakfast.

"Courtney always thought, 'Hey, we should invite them over and check out what their story is,'" said Webber.

When the couple marries next month they plan to drive across the country to Portland, Maine and take strangers out every third day or so for a morning meal. They'll blog about it and eventually write a book.

Webber, a community organizer, and Dillard, a professor at Willamette University, say it's about more than just meeting new people.

"Even in Portland where you are in such a beautiful place, you have a lot of folks who don't even say hi to each other on the street and this is kind of our little way to challenge that," Webber said.

"You see a lot of enthusiasm, and you see a lot of energy for telling your story and for interacting," Dillard said.

They've asked people to breakfast five times now. One man told them he was building a sailboat for a trip around the world. Jared Kasl, sitting next to his wife, Lana, told them about the time he lost 100 pounds in a quest to be healthy.

"They're really great people, and it was really nice meeting them," Jared said. "I think this book is just a really awesome opportunity."

An opportunity and conversation that Webber and Dillard hope will last long after the breakfast plates are cleared.

They said their van they plan to live and travel in is getting painted "Pancake Gold" to promote their project.

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