Last week, I spent two hours at a dinner sitting with eighty other people in the pitch dark. So dark that you could put your hand in front of your face and not see it. On top of that the Orlando Police Department SWAT Team was present serving us with night vision goggles. No, there was not a power failure, this was intentional. You are probably asking “what’s the purpose of that, are you crazy?” You would be correct in asking the crazy question, but the power of this experience will be long-lasting.
Lighthouse Central Florida approached us to do a collaborative event. They are the leader in providing critical services for the blind as well as jobs. Lee Nasehi, CEO of Lighthouse and her team, were the perfect partner. We jumped at the opportunity to host their annual “Dining In The Dark” Event in our Community Room. It made sense for so many reasons. Lighthouse conducts this dinner to give diners a brief but powerful experience, a small sense of appreciation, for what the world would be like if you did not have your sight. It’s always a “win-win” when two nonprofit organizations can collaborate. Expenses were reduced; as a result more money was raised for our respective missions. Our Darden Community Kitchen and the culinary students worked alongside five volunteer Disney chefs to provide the dinner. For Second Harvest, this dinner experience also reminded us of the ‘blind eye’ that too many people in our community continue to have when it comes to the existence of hunger in Central Florida.
From a more personal point of view, I found that I learned to truly “see” for the first time…wow, the irony in that statement. When there is pure darkness, your sense of hearing, touch and smell come alive in ways you couldn’t imagine otherwise. We were not told what we were eating until after the dinner, so your imagination went into over-drive. The conversations at dinner were less inhibited; the darkness broke down a barrier. It put everyone on an equal playing field of sorts.
On a lighter note, when the lights were gradually brought on it was interesting to find out I had been wiping my mouth with the table cloth and not my napkin that had dropped to the floor! Two of my fingers were a bit purple because of keeping them in the glass while pouring my red wine so that I could tell if the glass was full. Those are just a few samples of unexpected experiences.
The evening was so special that we decided we’re going to do it again, so watch our websites. You’ll have a memorable experience; have a great dinner and some fun while helping people right in our backyard. Now, if I can only find my napkin….