On Friday October the 12th I did my Kentucky kitchen table project in Crestwood, Kentucky, which is outside of Louisville, Kentucky. I did this in my childhood home. Including myself there was a total of seven of us, all were my parents’ friends that they have known from church. These people were different ages and did different things in life, so they had all different experiences. Even though I was a little nervous for the experience and the discussion, I was pleasantly surprised by everyone’s answer and had a great time discussing with all that participated.
The first person at the dinner is Cindy. A 52-year-old white female mother of 3 a widow in her second marriage, she has BA in English, she has education degree and a Master of Arts and teaching. She is currently a sales clerk and an invitation maker. She is an artist and a truly nice person. She is religious and goes to church on a regular basis.
Andrew, who is the significant other of Cindy, a 51-year-old white male, recently married, he has a degree in business in technology from the University of Kentucky and a bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky University in business and behavioral science. He is a luthier, so that means he repairs string instruments he’s in a blues and jazz band and he plays guitar. While he was religious when he was growing up he does not currently go to church anymore.
Mark, a 56-year-old white male who is an engineer, with a master’s degree and MBA who went to the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. Mark is a very creative man who has a wood shop in his basement, and he helped me once create a case for my grandfather’s American flag from when he was buried, so he is a very helpful man and very kind. And like Andrew he is musically inclined and plays music regularly for church. He currently works in the health care service. He has always been a Christian person and goes to church regularly.
Laura, a 54-year-old white female, who is a mother of four. She is a registered nurse with a BSN from Vanderbilt University. She is a very nice person who is the wife of Mark, and like Mark she is also religious and goes to church regularly as well.
Terry, my father, a 53-year-old white male who works in health care for kindred health care. He got a communications degree from Vanderbilt University, and a sports management degree from The Ohio State University. He grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, which when he was growing up wasn’t a very big place at least compared to now. And he grew up in a religious household and continues to stay very religious to this day going to Middletown Christian Church.
Carrie, my mother and wife of terry, a 56-year-old white female, who is a retired fourth grade elementary school teacher of 33 years. She received a teaching degree from the University of Wisconsin at River falls and a master’s degree in education from the University of Louisville. She also grew up very Religious In Hudson, Wisconsin and still continues to go to church also at Middletown Christian Church.
And then there’s me, Sean, a freshman at Western Kentucky, I too grew up religiously and still go to church.
The first thing that I asked to my group of people was the required question, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” I got mostly the same answer from everybody, that citizenship is really just always about helping your fellow man and respecting each and everybody that is around you in everyday life. This could be someone you know extremely well like your best friend or this could be someone who you’ve never even met before like someone who needs help taking groceries to their car at the store. We talked about being a good citizen who contributes to their society is just someone who makes the society they live in better. This goes along well with one our three essential questions, “How can people live better (or, at the least, less badly) together?” Because we discussed that a good citizen really does try to just live together better with everyone, not just the people they know and like. These answers could all be a result of the religion of the people who came to my dinner. Everyone who came was a Christian in one way or another, and one of the key values of Christianity is helping people, so this definitely influenced them to want to help others a citizen.
We talked about a lot of different questions from the list in the handout which led to other questions, but one of the first questions I asked as the leader of the discussion was, “Does your religious or spiritual identity relate to how you think we should treat other people? Does it relate to how you see yourself as a citizen?” Like I talked about before they talked a lot about how going to church and growing up in Christian household, influenced the way they treat other people and that it has had such an impact in all of their lives. They all talked about how to love to help people, because it’s the way they are now. But sometimes it really makes them guilty that they have all this stuff and a lot of people don’t really have anything. So, I told them about what we talked about in class. That a lot of times we feel guilty about people having a lot less than us and being less fortunate. While it’s okay to feel bad for those people, because that’s just basic human empathy, you shouldn’t feel guilty but instead thankful that you have all that you do. Because you shouldn’t feel guilty for working hard and being rewarded for that hard work.
This relates to the reading by Ivan Illich, “To Hell With Good Intentions.” In this reading he talks all about how sometimes we feel so guilt ridden about the less fortunate that we try to go to those places with the less fortunate and help them out, but in the process, we sometime impose ourselves too much on the cultures we are trying to help and end up doing more harm than good. So, our religion can be a good thing and help us know the right thing to do, other times it can cause us to do stupid and irresponsible things too.
We also discussed the questions, “How do you think your job relates to your role as a citizen? Do you see your job as serving a greater purpose?” They all had something to say for this. Both Mark and my dad, Terry, work for health care companies. While Mark works for a nonprofit, Norton Healthcare, and Terry works for a for-profit healthcare company, they both say that they feel like they really help people live better lives because they can live healthier lives. Laura who is a Registered Nurse gave a similar answer saying that she feels she lets people live longer and better lives than they would if she wasn’t there to help them. My mom, Carrie is a retired teacher, so she felt that since she got to help mold the minds of the future and help kids learn things that they might not learn if they didn’t go to school or have her as a teacher, so she felt like she helps to create the citizens of the future and instill her good values on them. Then there’s Cindy and she helps to create specialized cards for various events which might not seem like much, but if very special because she can help people realize their dreams, and celebrate them in a good fashion, like she can help people create very cool cards if they’re getting married. This is very special because she can make people’s special moments even more special. And lastly there’s Andrew who is a luthier, which means he is a creator or repairer of stringed instruments. This may just seem likes he fixes up guitars, but it’s a lot more than that. As he explained it, he helps people to repair family heirlooms, like if they had a guitar that was passed down from generation to generation that was very special to the family then he could help restore it. By doing this he helps people keep something that is very special to them and to their family. This show we all have something to bring to the table when helping the world.
And lastly, we talked about the question, “Do you know your neighbors? Why or why not?” And we talked about how a lot of us don’t really know our neighbors all that well unless we have something in common with them, like we had kids the same age or similar jobs, etc. I just thought that this was interesting that not a lot of us know our neighbors.
What I learned from this experience overall is that we all have something to contribute to the world whether it’s something big or small, no effort that can be given to the betterment of humanity is too small. I learned that every once and awhile it’s beneficial to work together and talk about bigger issues with people, because it can help us become better citizens in our own societies.
Left to Right, Terry, Carrie, Andrew, Cindy, Laura, Mark, and I’m (Sean) on the ground.