When I first heard about the Kentucky Kitchen Table I knew that I wanted to host a meal in my home, but as the meal got closer, I became very nervous and apprehensive to share my home and my parents with individuals that I barely knew. I was accompanied by five individuals from very different backgrounds with differing views. The first guest at my kitchen table was my roommate and close friend, Lyn Dawsyn, who grew up in Glasgow, Kentucky and is also a freshman in the Honors College. Lyn Dawsyn is typically quieter in group settings; however, when she did speak during our discussion, she always made insightful and profound statements. Her love for politics and unconditional compassion for others truly enriched our discussion. Next was Hannah whose experiences growing up in a larger city like Louisville, Kentucky and attending an all-girl private school allowed her to contribute numerous well-thought out and valuable insights to our discussion. Next was Scott who also grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and is very independent and firm in his beliefs, yet open to hearing the opinions and perspectives of others. Scott was the individual at the table who I knew the least. The final two individuals at my Kentucky Kitchen Table were my parents, David and Tami. David has lived in and around Bowling Green his entire life and currently works as an Engineering Specialist for Medical Center Health (formerly Commonwealth Health Corporation). David enjoys sharing stories about his countless experiences and lessons learned thus far. Although I thought I had heard every story he had to tell over the last eighteen years, my dad shared stories during our dinner about his time in the Army that I had never heard, which was perhaps one of my favorite parts about this project. The final person seated at my kitchen table, my mom Tami, undoubtedly put in more work than anyone else leading up to the meal, which truly exemplifies her unconditional selflessness. Tami is a Certified Credit Specialist who also works for Medical Center Health. She is much less outspoken compared to David but still contributed numerous valuable comments to our discussion.
After everyone had filled their plates with delicious home-cooked food, we began our discussion by going around the table and sharing our opinions on what makes us all citizens and our responsibilities as citizens beyond those you typically learn about in school (voting, taxes, etc.). I was pleasantly surprised that we came to the unanimous decision that above all else, being kind to others and doing your part to be a genuinely good person to the people around you was the best way to be a better citizen. If each one of us made it our responsibility to be a good person, the dynamics in our communities would change drastically.
The next topic that we discussed was whether or not our jobs play a role in bettering the community. Because only two of the six people had true occupations, the students at the table answered the question based on the careers that we hope to have someday. Each of the young adults seated at the table had driven intentions of making a small difference or change in the field that they hope to enter. Lyn Dawsyn wanted to change the nature of political campaigns and advertising as a whole while Hannah wanted to change the nature of the media and how news is portrayed. Scott and I both plan to enter healthcare fields, and we are both largely aware of the impact that each individual interaction that we have with a patient, especially a child, could change the way that they view healthcare professionals as well as improve their mood or how the rest of their day goes despite their illness or disability. David and Tami also expressed genuine desires to treat everyone with compassion and respect in the workplace regardless of how they treat you, their position or title, or how bad of a day you are having. After dinner, Hannah and I both decided that this discussion in particular reminded us of one of the central questions we are focusing on in this course: How do we live well together? I also personally related the way that each of us answered this question to the fact that the first step in crossing the theoretical bridge from how we currently live to how we want to live better together is to recognize the part that every single individual holds in making a difference in how individuals in a community live together. If everyone was conscious of how they interacted with the people that they encounter, we could begin to live better together.
Relationships and interactions with our neighbors was the next topic that we discussed, and it was a particularly nostalgic subject for my parents and I as a majority of the neighbors that we had when I was growing up have recently moved away in the last few years. Nearly everyone at the table expressed the same sentiment that they felt much closer and had more interactions with their neighbors during childhood compared to now, which may be a result of the technology that we now fill our free time with. Tami pointed out that in addition to the advances in technology that have led to a reluctance in spending time outdoors and interacting with neighbors, a lack of trust and willingness to be vulnerable amongst strangers has also greatly contributed to a change in how we interact with our neighbors.
Because my Kentucky Kitchen Table took place the week before Election Day, and we had become seemingly comfortable with each other, our conversation then shifted to a more controversial topic: the impending election. To ease into the topic and not enter directly into discussing specific candidates, Hannah asked what advice each of us would give to someone running for a political office. My parents and I have had this conversation multiple times over the last few months, so immediately my dad mentioned how although it is a tricky (AKA wicked) problem, he wishes there was a way to require the President of the United States to have some form of military experience or background because he/she is given the task of being the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. This epistemological knowledge of how the armed forces operates would be valuable because the decisions made by the Commander in Chief impact the actual lives of millions of Americans more so than many other decisions that the President makes that may impact Americans’ livelihoods like taxes, healthcare, etc. I also stated that I feel the President should be business-minded rather than politically minded yet still be experienced enough to understand how to make decisions for an entire nation. I think a business-minded candidate is necessary because “corruption” is so prominent in politics and improving our economy and international relations are extremely important to the current state of our nation. Overall, everyone at the table agreed that although it was difficult to choose a candidate based on character in this election and one cannot base their vote solely on character, ideally a candidate for a political office would be level-headed, respectable, generally trustworthy, and considerate of all races, backgrounds, and economic classes while also being well-qualified for the position.
In summation, the greatest thing that I took away from my Kentucky Kitchen Table project was that our campus, hometowns, nation, and world do not necessarily need drastic and radical changes in order to improve. I left the dinner comforted by the thought that if each individual is willing to give compassion and strive to receive respect from everyone they come in contact with, numerous problems that we identified throughout the night could be resolved. I strongly believe that every individual sitting around my kitchen table that night greatly benefited from this project. My parents have not stopped talking about how much they enjoyed hosting this project in our home and how renewed their faith is in my generation. I have eaten dinner around the same table nearly every night for the last eighteen years, and I believe undoubtedly that the night of my Kentucky Kitchen Table project was possibly the greatest experience I have had sitting at that table.