My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place right here in Bowling Green. My partner, Brittney, had relatives in town that graciously opened their home to us. Her aunt, Carly, prepared a delicious dinner of nachos and cupcakes. Raised the daughter of a caterer, her kitchen was a source of pride. Her kitchen belonged on a Pinterest board. Her husband, Mike, and their four children, James, 19, Jon, 17, Anna, 16, and Olivia, 14, also joined us for dinner. Carlee is a painter who also is a homeschool teacher to her children. Mike is the supervisor at a machine shop in town. James works in a granite shop in town. Jon is a senior in high school and works at Chick-fil-a. Anna is a junior in high school who enjoys baking. Olivia is a seventh grader who likes to write. Brittney is a freshman at WKU who is clarinetist in the Big Red Marching Band. She dreams of becoming an English teacher. I am a senior at WKU who hopes to be a physician. We each had varying religious and political views, but we found that we agreed on many topics. This is our table.
We began our discussion with a topic central to our HON 251 course: beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you? I was surprised by everyone’s responses. Overall, we agreed on what it means to be a citizen. Mike began our discussion stating that “[citizenship] means responsibility. In order to have rights, we have to have responsibilities like to protect and exercise them and share them with children and grandchildren. It also means sharing history and working to change laws to improve the community.” Being a citizen is an active role, if you choose to take it. Citizenship is not only caring for the current community, but preparing for the future community. We also agreed that communities can overlap or even be nested inside one another. A neighborhood is a community that is nested inside a community of a town or city. It is our role as citizens to foster each of our communities.
Our next question in the discussion asked what we can do as citizens to create these communities that we want. Anna provided an excellent example of how to grow a neighborhood community. “One way we help our own neighborhood is helping our elderly neighbors. We get calls asking to help them, say, get their mail and we go over and do it.” By serving members, like the elderly, connections are formed promoting growth towards the ideal community. Another aspect of community growth concerns the economy. By opting to buy goods and services within your community, it will grow. A large aspect of community economics is word of mouth. In my family’s small canoe and kayak rental business, 90% of our business comes from word of mouth.The community is advocating for the business and helping it to grow.
In relation to what kind of community would we like, we also discussed the best things about the world as a whole and what community we would like to live in. Carly believes service to others is the most important quality any person or community can possess.”In world relations, we should have a charitable attitude. You should help your neighbor. For example, James will help you out if there’s something wrong with your car or even help you with building things in your home. Jon can fix your computer problems, and both can do those because they followed their father’s footsteps.” We use the skills we have to better the community we live in. Jon believes “each person has abilities, and no one can do everything. It has to be a situation within your means, but we need to take care of each other.” Olivia believes we need to celebrate our differences.
Our conversation turns slightly to our next question. How do you think your job relates to your role as a citizen? A a Chick Fil A associate, Jon feels that it is his role as a citizen interacting with the public “to enjoy the day with people in good moods and uplift those having bad days.” Carly believes that no matter a persons job, they should display excellent leadership as well as citizenship. If we want our community to reflect ourselves, we need to be the best versions of ourselves at work and at home. This applies to management positions as well. Be the kind of boss you would like to have. By providing quality goods and services in your job, the community can grow to be its best self. For those of us who work in the education sector, our job is to promote the future of the community. Teachers train young minds to later make a difference in their community. Students learn, so that they can one day be productive members of society. This course, HON 251, is a perfect example of the symbiotic relationship between education and citizenship. Brittney stated, “this class is a great starting point to learn about citizenship, and encounter new ideas to form my opinions.”
We also discussed how our religious beliefs affect our role as citizens. Jon put it best in saying, “if you believe something, you shouldn’t have to say it. It should come through your words and deeds.” Faith guides people to help their fellow man. Actions speak louder than words. This was the only portion of our discussion where viewpoints differed. I would not consider myself religious, and as such, my actions are not die to religious reasons. As citizens, we have to respect differences of opinion and religion. We need a community that accommodates many view points, so its members do not feel ostracized by any one group.
Finally, we discussed our closing thoughts and reflections. Overall, this was a positive experience. It was nice to have an open honest, discussion about varying viewpoints. I hope to have discussions like these in my own home one day.