Breakfast With Strangers: The Couple Who Wants To Buy America BreakfastJune 21, 2012 @ 5:17 pm (Updated: 5:41 pm - 6/21/12 )
By Rachel Belle
When is the last time you had breakfast with a stranger? For many Americans, the answer is probably never. But a Portland, Ore. couple has decided to turn their honeymoon into a project, and hopefully a book, that involves spending their first meal of the day with someone they have never met before. They'll even pick up the tab.
"Courtney and I are going to be driving from Portland, Ore. to Portland, Maine and then back again," says Matt Webber, who works for a Portland non-profit. "We're basically driving around the United States for five months and we'll be taking strangers out to breakfast."
Matt Webber and Courtney Dillard have put out a call to America: In 500 words, tell them why you would be an awesome person to have breakfast with. They've already received 600 emails from eager Americans who want to break bread, or biscuits and gravy.
"We also want to be brave enough to just approach somebody in a diner, or walking into a restaurant, and ask them if they'd be willing to have breakfast with us on the spur of the moment," says Courtney, a professor at Willamette University.
With 600 applicants and counting, I wondered what kind of people appealed to the couple.
"We've got a pastor in Denver that does his sermons on Monday nights in a bar," Matt says. "A lot of people write to us, and a lot of people are really happy and think they're living really big lives and are very proud of that and want to tell their stories. Then there are some folks who are like 'Well, I don't know if I'm the guy you should pick.' A gentleman wrote us who is a manager at a Chick-fil-A. He's a struggling entrepreneur and he's just trying to live the American dream. He's kind of down on himself, but that sounds like someone I'd like to sit down with. That sounds like someone who's probably got a really interesting story."
At a time when people often communicate through Facebook, email and texting, Matt and Courtney want to reconnect with people and hear their stories.
"America is really portrayed as divided right now," Courtney says. "I think our experience interacting with strangers, both nationally and internationally, is that that's not actually the case on a person to person basis. So maybe trying to tell that story: That it's not as divided as we are told."
The soon-to-be newlyweds will be taking their great American road trip in a used minivan.
"We bought a 1997 Ford Aerostar," says Matt. "It's painted gold like a pancake. It's got the personalized license plate ordered for BWS50: Breakfast With Strangers 50 Meals."
They hope to turn their journey into a book, so breakfasts will double as interviews, and Courtney and Matt will ask their breakfast companions a series of questions about themselves and how they see the world. They've been practicing their project on a handful of people in Portland.
"We've taken five people out to breakfast, and at the end of breakfast I've hugged three out of the five people," Courtney said. "When was the last time you hugged someone you met an hour ago? That really said to us that they enjoyed that experience and that they were happy that they had done it."
"People open up a considerable amount to somebody even if they don't know them," added Matt. "It's been fascinating to watch some of the details that folks have shared with us over the breakfast table."
Courtney and Matt are raising money for their trip on Kickstarter. They only have a week left to raise about $2,000. Click here to help them out! Click here to find a link to their website, where you can apply to have breakfast with them.
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