Our dinner consisted of myself, Abigail, and Cate at Nate’s house. I arrived first and Nate began telling me about the different jobs he’d had throughout his life before he settled on teaching. The transition he made that I thought was most interesting was how he went from working in a restaurant to being a food salesman. He just changed who he was selling to food to. Abigail and Cate arrived shortly after and we sat down and began chatting before we began to eat. We all went around and briefly shared our major and where we are from. I don’t recall Abigail and Cate’s majors but I know they were both in the sciences. Abigail is a freshman who went to GSP before her senior year of high school and is from Kentucky. Right now she is on a club cheer team in Bowling Green. Cate is also from Kentucky and played volleyball in high school. Next Nate began sharing with us. He told us about his son and grandchildren and pointed out photos of them on his fridge. He then proceeded to tell us about how he met his wife. The story was very funny. He was almost hit by someone driving a car and proceeded to flip them off. The driver stopped and rolled down the window and he realized that he knew her. From then on they hit it off pretty well and eventually he followed her to another school where they realized they had feeling for each other and began dating before eventually getting married.
Nate shared a lot of stories of us. One that was particularly interesting was why he does not swim in the ocean anymore. On him and his wife’s anniversary one year they were able to go snorkeling one day. They began and he told us it was beautiful because of the amount of fish and how blue the water was. But he was not able to stay in the water long. Soon all the fish began swimming to him and nibbling on his body. He told us how he immediately got swam up from there, got back in the boat, and did not got back in the ocean for the rest of their trip. We began talking about this story after we talked about how Cate lived near a lake which prompted Nate telling us about why he can’t swim in the lake. Another interesting story he told us was about how he helped teach a student in Germany about finding the volume of a cucumber by unconventional means. He gave him a few ways to do it but the most interesting was dropping it into a body if water and then using the resulting displacement to find the volume of the cucumber. He then took this way of learning and had his own high school class do it in class to make the whole experience more interesting and fulfilling for his students.
Around this point we began eating the dinner that Nate made for us. It consisted of fried Italian style chicken, spaghetti with red sauce, corn, green beans, some rolls, and salad. The food was delicious and was a great supplement to the conversation. The conversation slowed a little bit as we began eating. He told us that he has always enjoyed cooking and before his wife passed away. He told us about some other meals he had prepared when he had friends over to play bridge. He took particular pride in the Bourbon balls he had made for them.
As we finished our meal we began to have a more pointed conversation as Abigail began asking some questions from our guide. This led to our most interesting conversation of the night. Nate began telling us about his worldview, where it came from, how it informed the way he treated others, and how it informed his outlook on America. He told us how he truly believes the most important thing that exists in how we interact is having respect and kindness for everyone, especially those we disagree with. He said this worldview came partially from his faith but was informed largely from his time as a teacher. He told us about seeing how LGBTQ kids were treated in his school and how he reached out to them to help them feel safe and wanted. He opened up his room for lunch and they often came and ate in his room. Because of this he is supports LGBTQ individuals but also understands how important it is to treat everyone with kindness. The conversation moved towards deliberation and he told us how he went about talking to those he disagrees with on issues. He emphasized how important having a base position of common ground was to having a civil conversation. When a conversation began to become more hostile than he preferred he would bring them back to why they were friends in the first place. This way of discussion leads to conversations that are productive and insightful instead of conversations that are just two people yelling their opinions at each other.
Without knowing it Nate had begun sharing his view on what I feel is the most important aspect of our class: how to have civil and productive conversations with those that stand opposite of us on issues. While I feel we have learned a lot about deliberation during class, talking about outside of the class setting gave me an understanding of how important it is that is hard to gain in an academic setting. Treating people that we think our wrong with the same respect we would want for our self only has positive outcomes. The informal way he spoke of this was a perfect supplement to the formal way of learning we have in class. Using deliberation while talking about abstract things in class is helpful to use, but talking about it in relation to “that guy on Facebook” gave it a realism that is hard to gain in a classroom setting. As the conversation closed I was very glad to have had the chance to meet Nate and hear his stories and opinions. He was able to put to words a lot of things I had felt about the election without being positive or negative toward either candidate. The entire experience was a very positive one that I hope many students will get to experience in the future.