I did my Kentucky Kitchen Table assignment in my hometown of Scottsville with my friend and classmate, Carter. Sitting around the table with these amazing people was such an experience. One, they offered to cook the meal, and when you’re in college, one thing you miss is a good, home cooked meal. Two, the conversation was really interesting. I had the pleasure of getting to know their perspectives on democracy and citizenship. Overall, I learned a lot from every person seated at the table. I couldn’t have imagined doing this project with a different family. It was truly an honor.
The family offered to prepare the meal. It was a really thoughtful, tasty meal. Tenderloin and mac-and- cheese are two of my all-time favorite foods. However, this project wasn’t just about the food, it was about the people around the table and taking time to hear what they have to say about what citizenship truly means to them. So, let me introduce you to these lovely people. On the left is Martha and Clarence. They are an older couple who serve faithfully at my church back home. Hayden, the little boy to the left of Carter, is Martha and Clarence’s grandson. He invited his friend, Jordan, to the meal. They both love school and of course playing video games. They’re young, but they had a little something to say about the topic. The couple to the right of me is Monica and DJ. Monica is one of my mom’s friends and was my Sunday school teacher for several years, but I didn’t get to know her husband until the meal. Her husband, DJ, was the most excited about this project.
Our conversation went on for a while, but I enjoyed every bit of it. We talked about citizenship, what they love about where they live, and the importance of family and a community. The subject of citizenship and democracy is touchy to many people, especially the people of Scottsville, who have gone through so much lately with all the crime going on. One of the questions I enjoyed hearing their answers to was what citizenship meant to them beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws. They all thought part of citizenship is to stop criticizing one another and start working together to build a more positive community. DJ said, “If every citizen learned to respect one another, we would improve the quality of life tremendously.” It’s not enough to just vote and follow laws; the life of a community should be safe and happy.
Being the older couple of the group, Martha and Clarence had a lot of experience and insight. They loved the fact that they were born into a country where there is freedom and rights. However, they wished we could all go back to the days where people actually care about each other. Monica emphasized that citizenship means being with who you want to be with. It makes America the melting pot. To her, citizenship also meant living in a safe community and not being afraid to sleep at night. The kids didn’t really know what citizenship meant, but after it was explained to them, they agreed that they should be able to live in a safe environment where they can go outside and play and be safe.
What helped this experience be so great for me was the fact that they brought so much diversity to the table. One, they were diverse in age. We had an older couple, a younger couple, and some children. They were also all in different walks of life, faced different things on daily basis, and had different opinions. One thing that stuck in my mind afterwards was they all agreed on what they loved the most about where they lived: family. With all the things going on in the world and in the community and the fact that they all have busy lives running here and there, they always make time for family. They could remember having meals with their family every Sunday after church and everyone would come. Now, they make sure every Friday night, they’re seated around a table giving thanks to God for each other and for the time they have together.
I learned that citizenship is and should be important to essentially everyone. While sitting around the table, I couldn’t help but think of one of the central ideas of this class: the metaphorical bridge. The left represents where we are and the right represents where we want to be. In order to make progress across the bridge, we must take baby steps to move toward the goal. One way to make good progress in crossing the bridge is to practice democracy. This has to do with all the things being a citizen consists of: service, how we talk to each other, what we buy, and how we live.
It was a pleasure sitting around the kitchen table with these wonderful people and getting the chance to talk about topics no one really wants to talk about. Everyone was so welcoming and hospitable. All the conversation and laughing was great, but the best part was hearing them say, “Our home is your home.”