There’s one thing that is certain about my family: we always take the time to eat dinner together. Our family dinners are an integral part of the day for us, and now that I’m away at college, I’ve realized that I took those dinners for granted. I eat dinner with friends, of course, but there’s just something special about gathering around the dinner table with your family and talking about the day’s events.
That being said, the concept of this project really resonated with me. Dinner conversation is the best conversation, in my personal opinion. As soon as the project was assigned, I called my parents and asked them to invite our next door neighbor over for dinner. I came home the next weekend, and our Kentucky Kitchen Table Project commenced.
My mom, sister, and I ate a delicious meal with Mrs. Lori, a single mother who lives two houses down from us. My mom, Carolyn, is beautiful, blonde, and bold. Jordyn, my 14 year old sister, though brunette, inherited every ounce of my mother’s spark. The two are firecrackers, compared to my reserved nature, but I love them to death for it. Mrs. Lori, though I didn’t notice at first, has a very kind and comforting smile. Talking to her was easy, and fun. She was quiet at first, like me, but we all quickly became comfortable with one another. I’m so glad that I put myself out of my comfort zone and got to know Mrs. Lori along with the rest of my family.
Our Kentucky Kitchen Table took place the weekend after the election. My family and I were very disheartened by the results of the election, and the beginnings of our conversation were a little somber. I had asked everyone what citizenship meant to them, and we all came to a similar consensus. Being an active citizen not only requires you to vote: it requires you to use any lawful means possible to let your voice to be heard. Mrs. Lori made a fantastic point when I asked her what it meant to be a citizen of the United States. Her exact words were
“Even though where we’re at right now doesn’t seem that great, we still have to put in every effort we can to get where we want to be.”
The week following the election was one of the most emotionally strenuous weeks of my life. I didn’t know what to think, where to turn to, who to talk to. Should I lose hope all together? Should I accept the situation, even though I’m not very happy about it? I asked Mrs. Lori, and the rest of the people at our table, what their thoughts were about the election. We had all just finished eating my mother’s manicotti, and we were starting to nibble on the donuts Mrs. Lori brought for desert. My sister, as eloquent as ever, said
“It kind of sucks.”
I told her to elaborate.
“Well,” she said, “It’s pretty bad for minority groups. And—,” she paused.
It is hard for me to describe the amount of sadness I saw in her young eyes.
“There’s just so much hate.”
We continued to talk about our thoughts, and we were all less than hopeful about the future. To brighten up the conversation, I asked everyone what they thought were the best things about our world.
I mentioned the wondrous availability of knowledge thanks to technology. This, I said, was especially important to college students.
“I think it’s great that our world is so different,” said my mom. “I mean, culturally, our world is so rich and interesting.”
Mrs. Lori nodded. “And even though we’re all so different, the great thing is that we really all want the same things: love, food, safety, a better life for our kids and families.”
She was absolutely right.
We continued to talk about our connection with others around the world well into the night. The donuts disappeared. The coffee became cold. Well after my sister, my mom, and I, wished Mrs. Lori a good night, I thought about what my neighbor said. With tensions continuing to rise in our country, especially among minority groups, it felt good to hear Mrs. Lori’s words.
I learned quite a bit that night. We really aren’t all that different, are we? America is a diverse, melting pot, and I’ve noticed that WKU certainly represents this. Our campus’s diversity is continuously shown to me during my morning walks from Minton to Cherry Hall: so many different races, cultures, religions. I think it’s wonderful.
It’s safe to say, though, that many of us can get wrapped up in how different we are from others. Human nature dictates that we divide, section, and organize people into their respective categories. It allows us to make sense of the world around us. But when does that become harmful?
My Kentucky Kitchen Table conversation made me realize just how alike we all really are. Our country is struggling right now. However, most of us want similar things, if we look past the aspects of society that want to divide us, such as religion, sexuality, gender, skin color, political affiliation, etc. We want a better world. We want to be happy, we want to feel safe, and we want what’s best for our families. As a kid, my mom and dad taught me to look for the good in everyone. Citizen and Self has taught me to not only be kind and respectful towards others’ opinions; it has also taught me to be empathetic. To see from others’ perspectives.
In these dark times, with hatred and fear bleeding through the news and onto the streets, our nation needs some kindness. Compassion. Understanding. And Mrs. Lori, my mom, and my sister, made me see this. We’re all citizens of the United States; that hasn’t changed. We shouldn’t continue to pin blame on voters who chose a path that others disagreed with. We must come together, accept our differences, and realize our common goals. Thinking about the future is unnerving for me, even now; but I know that I’m not alone, and I know that our country can unite as one. We’ll morph our fears into productivity and hope.
I’m not sure what these next four years will hold, but I’m grateful for the friendship I’ve made, and what it’s taught me. I’ll certainly be finding out where Mrs. Lori got those donuts, because they were quite delicious.
(Not pictured: my mom. She had some trouble with the IPhone Camera.)