Home away from home

By Dominic

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When KKT was first brought up, I had no idea what it was or what the purpose was. Eat dinner with strangers? What was this, some sort of forced friend-building exercise? I already had friends, I didn’t need to waste a Sunday night to make more. That was my first mistake of the night, my last would be buying two pies instead of just one.

When Barnabas and I first arrived at the address we actually passed it, twice. I was expecting Jared to live somewhere way off campus, maybe some remote village or something. As it turned out, he lived just down the road from Cherry! When Jared invited us in I was greeted by the heavy aroma of southern cooking. Jared had prepared homemade Chicken and Dumpling soup for us alongside some southern style green beans.

I was instantly taken away by just how neat his apartment was. Not only that, but Jared was extremely kind, and inviting; he even had music playing on Pandora and candles lit. The reason that this stuck me was because I’ve been in my friends apartments before, but they never felt like a home, just a larger dorm. As the night moved on, and the small talk began, I found out Jared was an English major here at WKU and that he would be soon graduating as a senior. Shortly there after I met his roommate Emma, who was a student at WKU but now works at a candle shop.  She mentioned that she’s now interested in transferring to a school in Oklahoma. I made the mistake of asking which one and she proceeded to rattle off the various colleges available in Oklahoma while I, with zero geographical knowledge of Oklahoma, nodded continuously like an idiot. I don’t think she noticed.

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Once we got to eating the real conversations began. I asked a question I often use to get to know people, “If you could have dinner with three people who would they be?”. I got a wide variety of answers ranging from Burt Reynolds to Jesus to Hitler interestingly enough. The excuse for Hitler was that he was one of the ambitious men of his time, and it would be interesting to figure out where that drive came from. While personally,Hitler doesn’t sound like the ideal dinner date, It made me realize something. In class we discussed briefly that people have more and more homogenized their piers, that “cliques” whether they be high school friends of coworkers, tend to become less and less diverse with people searching for friends with similar traits as themselves. Now, here I was, sitting with three people that I wouldn’t have ever eaten dinner with were it not for this project, and I had a thought. It’s not because of some preconceived notion of who I am supposed to socialize with that I wouldn’t have dinner with these people, it was instead because each of our friend groups was made up, primarily, of people like each of us.  Yet, I found myself really enjoying the evening, especially as I got to learn more about Barnabas, who shared what life in Korea is like when compared to life in America. I find it amazing to think that someone from across the planet, who grew up speaking a different language, reading different books, learning different customs could sit down with three strangers from the other side of the world and carry on a conversation that interests everyone involved.

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If I could take away any major thought relating to Honors 251 it would be that Homogeneity is the downfall of democracy. As demonstrated in our class, it’s the variation on opinion, the disagreement on key points that gives perspective you wouldn’t otherwise have on a given subject.  To end on a bit of a cliche note, there is a quote a friend of mine told me last week; “Two people can illustrate crudity to you.
The first is the crude man, whom you see perceiving the diamond as a stone.
The other is the refined man, who makes clear to you the crudity of the first one.”

-Idries Shah

To me that quote speak to the matter of perspective in democracy. That the first made is crude due to lack of knowledge, the second is a crude man for demonstrating a lack of wisdom in when to use his knowledge. Without diversity, or at least a diversity of thought, democracy cannot flourish, only regress. That is my take away from my KKT project, an experience I was uneasy about going it, but so thankful for looking back.

Kentucky Kitchen Table Project

By Andrew

Going into this project I had no idea what to expect, other than maybe awkward and forced conversation on a rainy Wednesday. What I experienced was a totally different thing altogether. This has and will be my favorite memory of Honors 251, something I would have never guessed beforehand. The hosts, a writer couple, of the dinner were not only great cooks, but very interesting and kind people and I had the pleasure of getting to peer into their lives for a night. The group was diverse in many ways, with our beliefs (Christianity, Islam) and backgrounds, and the conversation was always respectful despite the differences. Abbas, a bio major hoping to become a plastic surgeon. Abbas is not only Muslim, but also in a fraternity which led to some funny stories. I did not know Stephanie’s religious beliefs, but she is also a bio major and an un upperclassman, she was a transfer student from a school in Florida. David and Molly were both writers who love going to parties together, traveling and have Catholic roots but are not religious. Something that surprised me initially is that Molly asked me to pray to start our dinner, but I felt that made all of us all open to one another. Talking about through introductions and Molly sharing interesting stories of a bizarre house party and her time in college at IU, we began to eat. Molly insisted on us not bringing food and providing the appetizers, main course and desserts. Molly and David described citizenship to us as being aware of what is going on in the world and also being courteous to those who were not as lucky. They explained that they felt citizenship was more of a relationship with ones community and country. Between our conversation starters many small conversations popped up, such as the stereotype of Christian gun owners, the presidential election, and even young marriage. Molly was surprised to hear that my family and I though Christian, were not pro-gun and I had the opportunity to share my beliefs on gun control and why I do not think being armed aligns with Christian values at all. Another interesting topic we discussed was our neighbors, and if we interacted with them or truly knew them. Molly and David were not particularly close to their neighbors due to them being very different. After David talked about his passion of teaching English at WKU and his love of different books that myself and the others had no previous knowledge of. Both of the hosts grew up and had fundamental knowledge of Catholicism which helped them understand my Christian background and upbringing. Our conversation jumped around for a while as we enjoyed a warm batch of brownies. We then talked about the stresses of school and our future, Molly did a great job of helping calm us and help us think about the big picture and making friends and having a good time. I took away a few things from the dinner that stayed with me, the first being how badly Christians often represent our faith. Molly and David had obviously had bad experiences with Christians that shoved their beliefs and political views down their throats. Something that was a positive takeaway from the night and the class in general, is that I learned being a citizen is more than paying taxes, and being kind to strangers. It is being aware of your situation and seeking improve not only your life, but the as well as the lives of others. This dinner and the conversations we shared was a great example of people who do not agree on religion or politics, still being able to enjoy each others company.IMG_2312

A Kitchen Table in Bowling Green, Kentucky

by Davis

At the start of the semester when I first heard about this assignment, I wasn’t sure what to expect from it. But after I had dinner with my classmate, Savannah,  and our host, Jennifer, I had learned more about what it means to be a citizen.

The dinner that Jennifer made for us was a delicious bow-tie pasta dish and a salad, and the coversation we had was just as good as the food. Our conversation started with the question, “What does it mean to be a citizen?” All of the answers to this question were very enlightening, and we each had a slightly different way of answering the question. However, all of us agreed that having compassion and empathy for other people is one of the cornerstones of citizenship. If people aren’t able to talk to each other or seek understanding with others, democracy stops working because people won’t be able to reach compromises. This led to more discussion about the 2016 presidential elections and immigration about the importance of creating dialogue between people instead of divisions.

I especially liked Jennifer’s attitudes about empathy. She talked about her work with a humanitarian organization at a refugee camp, and how the refugees were basically stuck in the camp because most of them didn’t have any papers that would allow them to get citizenship in another country. Almost all of the aid that reached the camp came specifically from that humanitarian organization, and it tried its best to help some of the families immigrate to the United States. However, once in the United States, refugee families still need support from the communites they live in, and the people still in the camp need support as well. Hearing a story like this underlined the importance of reaching out to other people and having empathy for where they came from, as well as where they are going.

My biggest takeaway from this project was the importance of interacting with other people. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have had this dinner, but because of this assignment I had a meal and a conversation that I learned a lot from. If you don’t take the chance to reach out to other people, you will never learn what insights they have to offer. But by having empathy for others, you can be a better citizen and help to create more understanding between people.

60’s, 70’s, and 80’s Hits Pandora Playlist

By William

At the dinner was myself, Colten, and our gracious host Nate. Colten is a Bio-Chem major and is from McLean county. Nate retired from his teaching position at Warren Central High School around 2005 and is currently a pastor at his church in Christian County. While growing up Nate moved frequently, changing residence every couple years due to his dad’s job. He has a killer 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s hits playlist that was playing before, during, and after our dinner. When Colten and I arrived at Nate’s house (after pulling into the wrong drive-way of course) we were greeted in the drive way by a white poodle and Nate himself. Now, sitting at the kitchen counter, we all got to know a little about each other over the fresh fruit I had brought. Eventually, we moved to the dinner table big enough for only three people. For the first minute or so we all stuffed our faces with the surf n’ turf meal Nate had prepared. As we proceeded to inhale everything in sight, Nate informed us on how excited he was to cook this meal. Sadly, Nate’s wife passed away a few months before. Because of this he doesn’t cook much for anyone other than himself.

After stomaching this news we started to ask Nate the questions that were supposed to induce conversation. Unfortunately, neither Colten or I were good at making these questions seem smooth or not awkward to bring up in discussion. Nate, however, took the questions and ran with them by going on tangents and telling stories. When we asked Nate about what social issue is closest to his heart, he responded with education. Because Nate was a teacher, he has a deep interest in the lives of the kids he was with everyday. He values education, he says, because “people can steal your money and your identity, but they cannot take away your education.” Nate told us a story about a student he once had in class who did not receive the love that he needed from those around him, especially his parents. Everyday, Nate would give this student a hug and eventually would say, “Hey man, I just want you to know that I love you and I care about you.” Nate says he would get a lot of concerning looks and comments from the teachers about how it was inappropriate for Nate to interact with a student like this. He made it very clear to us that if he got fired for making sure a student knew that they were loved and appreciated then so be it. Next, we asked Nate if he believes that he had any kind of obligation to the people in his community. Immediately he responds saying that we do have a responsibility to those around us and that “we are human, what’s the point if you’re not going to care?” To follow up this question we asked what he thought you could do in the community to help others. Three things came to his mind. The first way to give to the community was through your time. If you didn’t have time to give, then money was another option. Lastly, and most importantly, was through building relationships. Both Colten and I agreed that this was the most important way to give back to the community. We immediately mention how we just talked about this topic in class. We brought up the point that it is sometimes counter productive to go into an area, do the work, and then leave as if we know the solution to some one else’s problem. We tied this back into the relationship comment saying that a lot of the time people are just looking for someone to listen to them so they can actually help and be useful. We also talked about how Nate’s religious identity relates to how he thinks we should treat other people. To answer this, Nate tells a story about his church. Nate’s church, which is Disciples of Christ denomination, declared gay people as still part of the church. He says after doing that, around fifty percent of the church left. He says that people lack the confidence to be good and instead put others down to make themselves feel better about their relationship with God. Nate reiterated throughout the conversation that “by our love” we show what Christianity really is. Although it was the first question we asked Nate, I think it is the best one to end this post with. “What does citizenship mean to you?” He replied with a simple yet ultimately true statement. “To help other citizens in need.” Nate understood that being a citizen doesn’t mean doing whats best for yourself. It is about doing what’s best for others which in turn will be best for everyone, including yourself.

Finally, to end the night we had some coffee, water for me however since it was close to bedtime, and dirt pudding made by Colten. While we ate dessert, there wasn’t much conversation other than a story about how Nate met his wife. While he told the story, I reflected on what all had been said at dinner. I realized that a lot of what we talk about in class, comes down to just being a good person. Nate has never taken Honors 251, yet he embodies most of the idea and principles that we go over in class. We listened to how Nate doesn’t always agree with others around him, yet he still cares about them, loves them, and wishes to see the best for them. That is definitely something I will take away from this dinner with Nate and Colten.

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By Victoria

KKT PicMy partner in in the Kentucky Kitchen Table assignment was Sam, a broadcasting major from my Citizen and Self seminar. Our hosts for this project were Tom and Stephanie, a married couple. Tom and Stephanie follow a vegan diet, so this meal was a fairly new experience for me. While enjoying the delicious meal, we talked about several topics relating to what we’ve learned in class, starting with what citizenship entails beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws. The main points that were brought up on this subject were ways to successfully live with each other. For example, we agreed that it is important to pay attention to those around us, rather than living in our own little bubble, and that we have to be patient and work with others to resolve differences. We also talked about what feel are the best things in our world today. Stephanie had a lot to say on this subject. With her kids living in many different places around the world, she is very thankful the world is so interconnected, and that she is thankful for programs like Skype that allow her and Tom to stay close to their kids despite the physical distance. Next we talked about whether or not we have any obligations to other people in our country and community, and we had a couple different opinions within the group. Tom, Stephanie, and I agreed that we do have obligations to those around us, especially when they’re in trouble, but Sam disagreed, giving the same opinion he gave when this subject was discussed in class: that we should help those in need, but we don’t really have any obligation to do so. Though we could see understand where Sam was coming from, and vice versa, we eventually had to simply agree to disagree on the subject. Finally, we talked about what advice should be given to those running for office in our country. The main points there were that political candidates should be open and transparent, keep their promises, and accurately represent the people they are supposed to be representing. The project was a good opportunity to learn how to discuss important social issues and what can be done about them, which relates directly to what we have been learning in class. It also gave me a chance to enjoy a meal unlike what I usually eat, with people who lead a different kind of lifestyle than I do, which relates to what we’ve talked about in class with understanding people’s experiences that differ from yours, which can give you a new point of view on a subject. Lastly, it allowed me to meet new friends. I thoroughly enjoyed dinner with Tom, Stephanie, and Sam, and the conversations we had.

Emma’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

For my Kentucky Kitchen Table project, I had the opportunity to collaborate with my classmate Sloan. We ate with Beth, the Coordinator of Resource Conservation at our university, who generously opened her home to us. Additionally, we got to eat with Beth’s three children—Gabe (9), Emmylou (8), and Camp (4)—and a couple of their friends who had come over to jump on the trampoline.

Beth and her family created a welcoming, open environment for dinner and conversation. It was a warm spring evening, so we decided to enjoy the weather by eating on a picnic blanket in the backyard. Beth said she and her family did this fairly regularly, and I admired the evident joy and connectedness she and her children felt in their home. Beth, Gabe, Emmylou, and Camp shared a similarly sunny disposition that helped alleviate my stress from school and enabled me to focus on the conversation we were to have that night.

For dinner, Beth prepared a delicious venison and vegetable stew using a deer that Gabe had shot himself. She also baked fresh bread. Sloan brought a fantastic, homemade hashbrown casserole. I brought tortilla chips and carrots to accompany the salsa ranch dip I had made.

When we sat down to enjoy our food, Beth asked Sloan and me about our college experience so far. We discussed the sense of possibility we felt here, as well as the similarities and differences between Bowling Green and our small hometowns. Then, we asked Beth about her interest in sustainability, which was evidenced around her home in a myriad of ways—the vegetable garden, the flowers, and the windows that allowed ample natural light to enter. She talked to us about how connected she felt to the earth, and then we got to learn about some of the kids’ interests. Gabe, Emmylou, Camp, and their friends told us about the numerous sports they were interested in. Their boundless energy was exemplified in their bubbly conversation and later in their running and jumping on the trampoline.

After we all learned more about each others’ interests and histories, Sloan and I asked Beth the required question: “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Her answer really resonated with me. She told us that citizenship meant being a part of an interconnected community and being a good neighbor. She explained how knowing one’s neighbors helps one to cultivate empathy and better understand people, which translates to betterment of society as a whole when enacted on a large scale. This reminded me of the “Empathy Exams” readings we did for class, which emphasized the truth that one must actively listen to others in order to appreciate their situation and demonstrate compassion.

In conclusion, I learned a number of things from this dinner. From Beth, I learned to be more open and to make an effort to understand and communicate with those around me so that I may learn from their experiences and develop more empathy. From Gabe, Emmylou, and Camp, I learned to relish the activities and opportunities available to me, as well as the company that surrounds me. The Kentucky Kitchen Table was a refreshing break from routine, and I hope to someday host a meal with a similar setting that encourages thoughtful conversation.

Won’t you sit and share this pizza with me?

By Michaela

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For my Kentucky Kitchen Table project, I had the amazing opportunity to share a delicious pizza with my host family Tyler, Jeanna with her roommates Haley and Molly. I am going to be very honest when I say that I had my reservations when I learned that we would be eating with strangers in their home. I was concerned that I wouldn’t feel welcomed since I didn’t know how much information was exchanged. However, the experienced turned out to be one of the best ones I have ever had.

Upon arrival, I was instantly welcomed with hugs and excitement by Jeanna and my her dog.  The pizza was running a little late so we got the chance to have a causal conversation before beginning out project around the dinner table. Jeanna was actually a recent graduate of Western Kentucky University. She works as a Park Ranger at the National Park and as a worker for an Autism organization. She has a very energetic kind of character and is very interested when it comes to stories shared by others. She likes to describe herself as a compassionate person who loves the outdoors. Haley is also a graduate of Western Kentucky University. She is a part of the campaign for the American Heart Association. She works on the Hoops for Heart campaign that urges elementary children to stay active and is an active fundraiser for the campaign. She has an opposite personality than her roommate Jeanna. She is a little more laid back. She loves golf and is very engaged in her studies.

As the pizza stared to arrive, we talked a little bit about our lives. We discussed where we came from in the parts of Kentucky. Jeanna and Haley had both originated from a rural neighbor in a small town where everyone knew each other. They said the move to Bowling Green was very intimating, because the city was so big. I thought this was pretty funny, because the town I come from, which was Lexington, is a lot bigger than Bowling Green. I was every interesting to see the different perspectives based on where they are raised.  I assumed that Jeanna and Haley would have different perspectives on today’s issues because they were raised in a small, non-diverse community. Instead, I have come to find out that their perspectives on today’s issues correlate to how a view today’s issues.  For example, Jeanna and I both agree that the environment should be the world’s top priority among with diverse equality, though she would put the world’s environmental effects as her number one priority. She has told me that she has seen the devastation of the environment first hand ever since she started working for at the National Park.  She says, “No one really understands the effects of human destruction on the environment, because they don’t see the impacts that come from their constant harmful effects first hand. Hearing about it on the news only makes us think that it is an issue that will fix itself or something that we will have to be worried about later. It’s the laziness and greed of humankind that will ultimately destroy the Earth someday, and its sooner than people think.” I told her we had discussed the devastation of the environment as a wicked problem in class. I told her that we might actually be too late to come up with a fast and effective solution, the only thing we can try to do is make it better”.  Her passion on the topic made me think that if everyone in the world had that kind of passion and heart, that we really could find a solution to the wicked problems of today, not just for the environment, but for other issues such as racial inequality and poverty.

As the conversation progressed to wicked problems, Haley also added her views on these issues, in particular, the racial inequality among the U.S. She made it clear that through she was a republican, she didn’t want to affiliate herself with the republican candidate Donald Trump. “He will singlehandedly destroy the US!” Though she does agree on the immigration problems with Mexico, she doesn’t believe that the problem can be fixed by building a wall. “What ridiculous moron would even suggest that! It’s completely inhuman, and offensive, and cold. How are they going to say ‘no immigrants ALLOWED’ when they are themselves immigrants?” This discussion also connected with the concept of wicked problems. I do agree with her statement, but I can also see how some people would be upset to the fact that there are illegal immigrants taking advantage of the opportunities of America without also sharing the responsibility of an American. We threw around some ideas that could help solve this problem, but some of the solutions had holes in themselves. However, we did conclude the only way to find a true solution is to talk about it. We like to think that it is best to have one person speak and have everyone follow, but then so many other ideas will be shadowed an ignored. We have to learn to sit down and talk to each other. Without talk, there can be no action.

The KKT project was a very stimulating project. It allowed me to discuss today’s issues with people who are different from me. Its process like this where we gather people from different backgrounds to try to come up with solutions to problems that opens our horizon to our own perspectives. It indirectly shortens that gap we like to create between ourselves and others, creating what the world had intended when society came up with the word citizen. Not only are we connected with our society, but the people within it. As soon as we start to realize that, we will be able to handle the wicked problems that arise.  So, to whoever may read this, won’t you sit down and have a pizza with me?