Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Stephanie

For my KKT project, I was partnered with Abbas and Andrew, and we were assigned to two Bowling Green residents, Molly and David. We met on April 11th, in their home, and they were gracious enough to provide us with the entire meal.

Andrew, Abbas, and I were all a little hesitant going into the dinner, as we all thought it would end up being awkward sharing a meal with people we’d never met before. There was also a concern about how we would manage to ask them questions without it seeming strangely like an interview instead of a conversation. However, Molly and David were both very talkative and friendly, and that made it easier for me to engage them in conversation. All in all, the dinner was a positive experience.

Molly and David are both professional writers, and both have taught at WKU in the past (David is currently on sabbatical to finish a novel). I thought it was amazing that they had both managed to make a living doing what they love, and they both assured me that I would be able to do the same. I think that throughout the evening, we all discussed things that were not necessarily related to the project directly, as we certainly drifted away from the designated questions, but I think Molly and David answered them fully enough just by discussing their views and opinions with us.

Molly and David had very similar viewpoints on what it means to be a citizen. David said that what he thought was a significant aspect of good citizenship was being informed. We all agreed that actively seeking out accurate information is so important before going out and making decisions, such as who to vote for. This is particularly necessary right now, in the midst of a heated presidential election. Molly said that she wouldn’t mind paying higher taxes (something any Bernie Sanders supporter could probably get behind), if it meant having better school systems, improved infrastructure, and universal healthcare. I think Molly’s statement is significant to the people who argue that “everything can’t be free,” as a way to oppose Sanders’ campaign. Of course everything can’t be free, but higher taxes on everyone would also benefit everyone by improving the society that we live in. Disclaimer: I don’t know their political stances, the presidential campaign is simply what came to my mind.

Molly and David both agreed that the world today is better than what it was when they were growing up. David mentioned being in college and knowing gay students that couldn’t come out because of social pressure. Now, as a professor, he sees students openly talk about being gay or LGBTQ in class or with their friends. In a span of twenty or so years, that’s a pretty impressive change. I brought up the point that, in my limited experience, some things are better and some things are worse. From a social standpoint, while we are definitely moving closer and closer to equality, because of technology and the added pressure we face to constantly be competitive, we are also drifting further from our communities and are less likely to be connected to the people around us than people from previous generations were.

When asked about living in Bowling Green, Molly gave a particularly interesting answer. She said that she felt she and David probably lived in a kind of bubble within the Bowling Green community, which is something I have also felt. There are two definite groups of people within Bowling Green: the educated, typically more liberal, populace in and around WKU, and the poorer, more “traditional” Southerner. I believe this dichotomy is characteristic of most college towns, but it also relates to what we have learned in this class. How can we go about bridging these gaps between people and build a better and more involved community?

When asked the question about their neighbors, Molly and David both chuckled and had some interesting stories to tell us about their experiences in their neighborhood. While they both agreed that the majority of their neighbors are elderly, and that the one family they had been the closest to had moved away, they didn’t fell they were as connected to their neighbors as they wanted to be. They had previously lived in a small town in North Carolina, and mentioned how in that town, people were very neighborly in the traditional sense, and everyone knew everyone else. They also mentioned how when comparing that town to Bowling Green, Bowling Green was far more racially divided. Being from Bowling Green, I feel that the demographics are something I always knew about but never consciously acknowledged.

When asked about whether they felt their jobs helped them serve a greater purpose, they both felt that it did, and that it contributed to them fulfilling their role as citizens. Being professors, they both discussed how they have the opportunity to connect with young people, offer guidance (something they did to me, Abbas, and Andrew, being college students ourselves), and prepare them for the world. One comment of Molly’s particularly resonated with me, when she said she felt she would be doing her students a disservice if she didn’t fail some of them. While it sounded harsh initially, I completely agree with her. Not everyone can pass, and students need to be willing to work hard in order to succeed. This also led to a divergent conversation about how too many young people today are herded toward the college path, when society desperately needs people that don’t attend college in order to function.

Molly and David had a lot of similarities, including their religious standing. Both were raised Catholic, both mentioned a liking for the current Pope Francis, and even though it wasn’t explicitly stated, I did get the feeling that neither were actively religious. Maybe spiritual? However, they were incredibly open and understanding of other people and their beliefs, and even offered to let Andrew lead a prayer before we ate which I thought was wonderful. We discussed how religious beliefs can affect the way people think and behave — whether positively or negatively — and we all agreed that being religious was not a prerequisite for being a good person. If being a good Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. offers you the motivation you need to be a good citizen, that’s admirable, but not necessary for everyone else.

We could also all agree on the fact that we do have an obligation to the people around us, because everyone needs help at some point throughout their lifetimes. Molly specifically mentioned the homeless population, and her disbelief when people were unwilling to help one another. I wholeheartedly agreed with her, as I too struggle to understand how people can not only refuse to help, but also completely discredit another person’s experiences, lack empathy, and make assumptions about their lives without knowing them. I think we can all agree that in order for the world to truly become a better place, we must all be a bit kinder with each other.

The only aspect of the dinner that I think we might have fallen short on was the diversity of the group present. While we did differ in age, backgrounds, and our religious beliefs, I think we were all in agreement on just about every issue we talked about. This might be because we are all from the first group of people in Bowling Green — the WKU group — and we were all at least somewhat liberal with regards to our social and political views. It would have been more interesting and more conducive to learning to discuss these topics with people that we might have some disagreements with.

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