(not pictured: Chuck)
Whenever someone told me that I was going into a stranger’s home to have a dinner, my first reaction wasn’t to get up and jump for joy. I was a little apprehensive as to where I was going, considering it was a half an hour drive through the back country. But also mainly because I had never met the homeowner and only knew one of the group members. I didn’t know what to expect from this experience based upon that fact that I could have totally different beliefs and viewpoints than anybody else around the table, was a scary position to be put in.
I come from a family where it’s just three of us, but my mom would cook a meal every night, I would set the table, and my dad would always do the dishes and clean up afterwards. So sitting around a kitchen table discussing the highlights and not so fun parts of our days were common and comfortable. Our conversations though, never really strayed from what was going on in each other’s daily lives though. So whenever the word ‘democracy’ came up about that being the core of the discussion for the Kentucky Kitchen Table project, I was nervous and felt very uncomfortable going into it.
My group consisted of six people including myself. First was Christian, who is the sustainability coordinator here at Western Kentucky and who graciously opened her home up to us to have this meal. Next was Chuck, who was formerly a U.S. Marine and now works the government. Then came Connor, Jacob, Madeleine, and myself. The four of us have similarities, but also many differences. We are all in the Honors College, but our backgrounds of where we have grown up are completely different. Madeleine is from right here in Bowling Green; Connor is from Louisville; Jacob is right across the border line from Cincinnati, and I’m from a rural town on the outskirts of Lexington. Each of our different upbringings have shaped us into the citizens we are today and have helped us form our opinions on the world today.
Once we had arrived at Christian’s house and awkwardly knocking on the back door, we were greeted by Christian and two large, loving dogs that shed a whole lot. But it was nice to be able to love on them, since I have been deprived of this since I have been at college. As a group, we got to make our own pizza that we were going to be eating for dinner. Out toppings were very diverse, ranging from plain cheese and pepperoni, to mushrooms and even pineapple. We threw in some tomato slices and some spinach leaves. Christian made a salad from greens she had grown herself, which was very refreshing and quite delicious. But she also made some pumpkin chocolate cookies, from a pumpkin she had baked earlier in the day. She made enough cookies to feed us and also to send back with us for our roommates.
As soon as we sat down for dinner, and after we had said grace for our food, Chuck was eager to dive into our discussion and was very vocal in encouraging us in our thoughts, but also very vocal in his own. Our first question of, “besides voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” had a very different response from each member of the table.
Chuck defined his view on citizenship is derived from the safety he has in our country. Where he was in the Marines, he has experienced many things from being in other countries that he never has to experience here. He gave the example of never having to slam on his brakes when driving down the road worried that a road side bomb is going to go off. He can casually walk down the street without being hated for being an American and having to worry about a child, woman, or man wanting to kill him. The safety and protection we have in our country is something that he said he is very thankful for based upon the fact that we don’t have to worry for our lives just walking down the street because of where we are from.
For Christian, her view on citizenship was focused around the wicked problems of our world, which directly relates back to our readings in class. But she mentioned three of her friends that are aware of these wicked problems that are around them and they are trying to make a difference in any way they can, but they know that there isn’t just one solution to the problem and the entire problem is not going to just go away overnight. What really resonated with me, was that each of her friends, don’t have a position of power, but they are still making a difference in their community. You don’t always have to have a position of power to do things to change the world for the better. Jacob and Connor both agreed on their view of citizenship as the community aspect of our lives. We each live in a community that we can all have an impact on and being a responsible citizen in each of our respective communities is important if we expect to come together to make a difference.
Madeleine and I agreed on our view of citizenship being that we are free to have religious views or the lack thereof. We can freely worship without the fear of persecution because in many countries they don’t have a say in what they believe. They don’t really have the option to choose whether they want to believe in that, or something completely different. In some countries though, you could be killed if you believe something different and try to spread it around. It’s a very serious issue, yet a right that I believe we take for granted if we choose to exercise it. Madeleine also extended her view on citizenship is the basic rights that women now have, such as voting or simply just going to school. In some other countries, it is frowned upon for women to be educated and seek a job. So having that right as a woman is very near and dear to my heart. But we also had to remind ourselves that we don’t always get to choose the situation we are born into.
Upon wrapping up conversations from dinner, we shifted back into the kitchen where Christian was wrapping up leftovers for our roommates and we were saying our last goodbyes to the dogs; we once again we said thank you to Christian before walking out the door. But just like that we were in the car and our experience was over. This experience was something that I truly enjoyed and would recommend to anyone. But mainly what impressed me the most, is that no one was on their phones and we had quality conversations. It was very refreshing and felt good to know that people can still have quality conversations amongst each other without the distraction of phones getting in the way.