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.