My Kentucky Kitchen Table was held at my house, and five other people joined me. Caroline goes to Murray State University full time and works two jobs to help her save for an upcoming trip to Spain (she is majoring in Spanish and can speak the language very well). She recently went on a trip to London. She is very open about her faith and religious beliefs and found a way to apply those beliefs to our conversations. Sarah, friends with Caroline, also goes to Murray State University. She is running for an office in her sorority and wants to be a teacher. David is a few years older than the rest of us and was born in Japan, but grew up in Alaska and moved to the continental U.S. in high school. He added a very interesting perspective to conversations we had about communities, citizenship, and social issues because of his diverse background. Kennedy just moved to the area from Illinois, and she was quite a bit older as well. She was the comic among the six of us and loved to delve into the minor differences between Kentuckians and Illinoisians that she has picked up once since her move. Hunter, my boyfriend, joined me as well. He is a sophomore at Western Kentucky University and hopes to be an anesthesiologist. He took a more straightforward approach to topics we discussed and easily tied our ideas together.
We began our dinner of homemade baked spaghetti by talking about what it meant to be a citizen or to have citizenship. David noted that what came to his mind was his dual citizenship in the U.S. and Japan. His citizenship gave him rights in his countries of citizenship, and he felt like he should take advantage of those rights in order to be an active citizen. Kennedy shared that she thought citizenship was also about the impact that you make personally in the lives of people in your community or nation. She is a social work major and said she hopes to make a difference and be a better citizen. This led us to talk about the obligations that we felt like we had in our country and if we thought our jobs served a greater purpose.
Kennedy currently does not work, but thinking of her future career as a social worker, she said it was really clear to her that her job served a greater purpose because she would be helping people who otherwise wouldn’t have been helped in that particular way. Hunter, also currently unemployed, mentioned that he felt obligated to help people and to become a doctor because that field of study is what he is good at. I asked him if he felt like other people are obligated to help others by doing what they are good at. He said he thought the world would be a better place if they were, but he felt obligated in that way because of his religious beliefs and understood that not everyone believed the same things that he did. Sarah is a tutor as MSU and helps a number of students with disabilities. She said she hopes she is making an impact on them and encouraging them to make impacts on others. Caroline said that working in a jewelry store allowed her to help people find pieces for very important moments in their lives. She shared a story of a woman coming in to find something for her adopted daughter because her biological father passed away. It was clearly a tricky situation, she said, but she found the perfect bracelet that came with a card explaining the bracelet’s meaning. A few days later, the woman came back in to thank Caroline and told her that her daughter teared up and promised to keep the sentimental piece forever.
Caroline’s anecdote challenged us to think about the little things, like a bracelet, and how we could replicate something that meaningful with our actions in order to solve problems. Hunter argued that small actions won’t fix big problems. He explained that our country needed to think big to solve problems, and that is why he supports our military so much. Kennedy expressed that small actions may not resolve war, but it can bring communities together. I supported her statement with a story of my own about a series of break-ins in my neighborhood. Several families came together to support the ones that had suffered damages or emotional distress. Several men volunteered to camp out to catch the individual, which resulted in the arrest of a man a few nights later.
Our discussion led us to share what were the social issues nearest to our hearts. Sarah shared that the education system has so many flaws and she wishes she could do something to change it because she will soon hate administering standardized tests when she becomes a teacher. She explained she believes standardized tests standardize students. David explained that veterans make up a significant portion of suicides and homeless people every year, which bothers him because his father is a veteran. Caroline told us about a project she did over homelessness that taught her that most homeless people aren’t homeless for any reason that they could have prevented. She went on further and eventually changed all of our perspectives on the issue of homelessness.
My Kentucky Kitchen Table experience reminded me of Paying for the Party because we all had different levels of wealth or different kinds of families, which led us to have different beliefs. We were in a way different from Paying for the Party: we did not let that get in our way of “deliberating” our ways of thinking. The Kentucky Kitchen Table project reminded me of the choreographer in the “Shipyard Project.” It was a medium to bring us together and share experiences, similar to the people sharing their past at the shipyard.
By the end of dinner, I learned that each and every person I was with wanted to move from one end of their own bridge to another. We all had different opinions on the best way to solve problems, and I wondered if our diverse problem-solving strategies were a good thing or not. Should we all work to make the world a better place however we see fit, or should we discuss and be on the same page when tackling problems? My perspectives definitely changed on many topics, from whether or not a jewelry store is making a difference, or whether or not we should we blame homeless people for putting themselves in a homeless situation. My definition of citizenship did not change, but I was happy to hear other perspectives. Because we all shared our opinions honestly and openly, we all agreed our perspectives changed even if our opinions did not.