Jane Murphy has been a member of the Council of International Visitors to Iowa Cities (CIVIC) for close to 20 years. Her first recollection of the organization was through an event at the University of Iowa called International Day. The event had numerous booths and tables with several student and community organizations. When Jane saw CIVIC's table, she said, "I got to understand what was going on with the State Department involvement and all of the other wonderful things the membership organization has been involved with through the years. I just told myself that I wanted to be involved too!"
Jane continued, "Perhaps, the initial impetus was that two of our children are internationally adopted. I have always thought it's really important to show them; people of other races and cultures and how we share certain things and even the differences in our lives."
According to Jane, one of the most attractive membership activities that CIVIC does is the ability to participate in Iowa Table. She said, "I have always been drawn to the program where you entertain visitors in your home for a meal. The traditions around mealtimes seem to be an integral part of any culture. People relax more through food, and you're not having to go somewhere quickly, and you have a certain amount of time to sit and shoot the breeze."
She continued to speak about the importance of CIVIC to her children, particularly the importance of the Iowa Table. While her daughter was a high school student participating in the City High School's newspaper, the Murphy family invited an international visitor from Malawi. Jane said that her daughter was "really taken with what he told us at the dinner table. And she followed up with an article that she then wrote for the newspaper at City High."
Jane remembered part of the conversation from the international visitor that really shocked her children. The Malawi visitor "mentioned that the children did not eat with the adults at their table or in their home. The adults ate first, and the children were further down the totem pole on the priority of eating." She said her children were absolutely shocked that children eat last in Malawi. She added, "All three of the kids' jaws dropped when he said that."
Her children were not the only ones to learn from the international visitors. She said her youngest son "actually tactfully called me out" when a group of Central American visitors stayed at her home during an Iowa Table. According to Jane, her son said she presented herself in the conversation with the visitors in a self-congratulating way. Her son added that she shouldn't say her donations were the reason children working with an NGO were successful. Her son added that the children who performed the achievement should be celebrated, not the donation. She said, "He was absolutely right."
Iowa Table dinners were something that Jane's whole family always enjoyed. She said, "What's not to like? We get a special dinner with fascinating, intelligent, and educated people with totally different experiences than our own. And we don't really have to lift a finger, other than going to pick them up, which was just about the hardest challenge of the whole experience."