Gathered around a long dining table in an unassuming turn-of-the-century foursquare on Nashville’s Music Row, Vanderbilt students and former inmates join hands before sitting down to share the evening meal. One by one, each is given the opportunity to say a brief word of prayer or gratitude before a hearty “amen” is uttered, and chairs scrape the hardwood floor and plates of food prepared by volunteers are passed.
This seemingly commonplace act of sharing a meal is more powerful than it might seem. Many Dismas House residents – all felons, some convicted of violent crimes – rarely sat down to a family meal growing up. This mandatory exercise helps build a sense of family and home.