My partner, Callie, and I went to Mike and Carly’s house (because of scheduling changes, Callie’s friend was unable to come). They are my aunt and uncle, but I thought it would be neat to have a discussion with them, because they are extremely religious. Mike works at CGS Machine and Tool and is a WKU grad. Carly is an artist who owned a business with another painter and recently opened a store in downtown Franklin. They have four kids, three of which are home-schooled. James is 19, works at Southern Kentucky Granite, and loves working on trucks. Jon is 17, works at Chick Fil A, and is being called into ministry. Anna is 16, loves to bake, especially pies, and will graduate high school early. All three love playing basketball. Olivia is 14 and is artistic like her mom. Callie and I sit across from each other in class and didn’t know anything about each other. She is a senior and will take a year off before medical school because she aspires to be a physician. She has multiple jobs and is “just trying to figure out life.” She is not religious, describing herself most likely as agnostic, so we were able to get different points of view during the discussion.
Carly insisted on fixing nachos for dinner, which we finished before taking the pictures. After eating, we started the discussion by asking the first question (What does citizenship mean?) and saw where the conversation went. Each person’s view came out in his or her answer. Mike said it meant responsibility to your community and country and “sharing history and working to change laws to improve the community.” Mike’s dad and brother served in the military so he believes we have to protect and exercise our rights and share that history. As an educator and active community member, Carly said, “teaching and participation.” Callie said it is “fostering the community you want to live in,” which makes sense because she has different jobs like the manager of a water park who trains lifeguards who care for the public’s safety. We then discussed how to create the communities we want. Anna said she creates her community by helping her elderly neighbors with daily tasks. We all agreed that helping people is important and helps create the communities we want, and it takes all people with all abilities. Each member of the family has different abilities. Some are athletic, some are fixer-uppers, some are cooks, and some are great with technology, and each person tries to utilize his or her talents. Callie wants to use her skills and dedicate her life to helping people in the medical field and I want to help students by being a high school teacher.
As we discussed helping others, I brought up the video we watched in class of the girl being run over. I asked if we have an obligation to help others. Callie believes people are fundamentally selfish and must overcome that instinct. We should help people but we do not have any actual obligation, and I agree with her view. However, as a Christian, I understand Jesus expects us to help others. My family spoke strongly with the belief that we do have an obligation. Jon said it is a conviction and James said “If a person can ask for help, help him. If he cannot ask for help, definitely help him.” Anna said that they have been blessed so it is their job to pass on the blessing.
We continued discussing ways to help others in their neighborhood and workplaces. It reminded me of the recent reading “The Energy Diet.” Andrew Postman takes small steps to reduce his family’s harm to the environment. His small changes added up and led to a few other small changes. I believe that my cousins take small steps each day to share their faith and better their community, and I think those actions encourage others to take small steps, too. Jon mentioned how he can be the difference in a customer’s day and while at work, he tries to take initiative and do what needs to be done. Mike discussed how he must monitor his actions and reactions as a supervisor. He must show respect and keep his emotions in check. James said he follows his motto, “Do the best you can, because that helps the community. Callie discussed her jobs both at the water park and in the Communication Department. She monitors her words and actions, too. I’m a student but I try to help my friends, peers, and others on my residence hall floor.
I asked the question “Does your religious identity relate to your role as citizen in any way you haven’t mentioned?” in order to hear their specific thoughts, because I could hear their faith in all their answers. Jon said, “If you believe something, you shouldn’t have to say it. It should come through your words and deeds.” And it sure did. That is why they focus so intensely on helping others. It reminded me of the early reading “If It Feels Right.” Young adults were asked about morals and right versus wrong, and responded that it is an individual decision. Everyone has different views, experiences, and beliefs, so it is up to each person to decide. My cousins are a different story, though. They are firm in their beliefs, which is admirable, but can come across as judgmental. They typically believe there is a right and wrong, so I wonder how they would operate in situations with gray areas.
My family said they usually have in depth discussions about tricky subjects like this, so it was not unusual for them, but it was fun. I enjoyed listening to their opinions which I typically don’t hear and learning more about them. I also enjoyed getting to know Callie more and hearing her views. I thought this was an enjoyable activity and hopefully I can create conversations like this with my immediate family, friends, and neighbors at home.