As a college student, I am constantly on the go, seldom able to make time for much of anything other than the tedious tasks that being a college student entails. I eat my meals hurriedly between classes, seldom taking the time to talk or even sit at a table. So when I was required to do the Kentucky Kitchen Table project for Honors 251, needless to say I was out of my element. However, through this project I was able to gain a valuable experience that I will always remember. This experience had an incredible impact on not only me, but also my classmate, a former Western Kentucky University student, and an unexpected furry guest that contributed equally as much to the night as the rest of us did.
When Zach and I first arrived to McKenzie’s apartment in his enormous truck, armed with nothing but prepared questions for the night and a few more-hastily prepared side dishes, we had no idea what to expect for the night. We walked into the apartment unprepared for the greeting we were about to receive. As soon as we opened the door, we were not-so-viciously attacked by an adorable elderly dog known by the name of Johnny Karate. It was obvious from the start that Johnny and McKenzie were good friends, and that this dog would be an important part of our dinner.
When I looked around at our faces, I did not see much diversity (unless you count the elderly face of the beloved Johnny Karate). I was confused as to how we would have different perspectives as we seemed to be a lot alike. However, as we began to discuss, I realized that in many ways, we are more different than alike. We each had our own experiences and backgrounds that shaped us into the people we are today. Therefore, we were each able to contribute greatly to the conversation with unique perspective and ideas.
Zach, for example, was raised on a farm in Pulaski County, Kentucky, graduating first in his class at Pulaski County High School. He is a biology major, with hopes of using this major to further plant-related science. McKenzie is the oldest of five children, raised in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. She is a graduate student at Western Kentucky University. She graduated Western Kentucky University with a psychology degree, and hopes to work with corporations in this field. I also hail from Pulaski County, graduating first in my class at Somerset High school. I was raised in a very political family, with my dad being the Pulaski County Judge Executive. Unlike Zach and McKenzie, I have no idea what I want to major in. However, that did not stop me from enjoying the good food and company of these people who have their lives a little more figured-out than I do.
When we first sat down to eat, it was at first a little awkward. However, there is no awkwardness that chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese cannot diffuse, so the awkwardness subsided quickly. After looking at my surroundings, I started to get a little bit nervous. On the coffee-table, there was a pro-Hillary Clinton coloring book. I began to panic on the inside, as I thought of my fellow classmate Zach, who is an open and avid Trump supporter. I knew that some of the questions we would be discussing would be politically charged, and I was nervous about someone in the room getting offended.
This nervousness was in vain, as no chaotic political bar-fights broke out throughout the night. What did break out was good, democracy-related conversation. It turns out that even though we may have different political views, we all have similar views on humanity and compassion. When asked “What does citizenship mean to you?”, we all were able to agree that this meant helping out those around you, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. I was able to relate this back to The Golden Rule, which states to treat others as you would like to be treated. McKenzie took citizenship a step further, by saying that we should not only be compassionate to the people around us, but also to the living things. The ears of the elderly dog, Johnny Karate, surely perked up a bit as this point was brought up. It was very clear that the elderly dog population is important to McKenzie, and her heart is big for the living things, human or not, that have the opportunity to be a part of her life.
We also discussed what we thought were the best things in our world today. McKenzie brought up the point of social media. Although social media is often used maliciously, it can be a great tool to connect with people in our world. Because of social media, it is easier to communicate with others than ever before. It is also a great way to see other people’s perspectives. This means that if you believe one thing, social media makes it easy to see someone else’s perspective about that issue, making it easy to be more open-minded. Zach and I were also able to connect social media to the election. Because of social media, we were able to stay more informed and aware of the candidates and their stances on the issue. We were all able to agree that social media was, overall, a great part of today’s society.
When asked what social issue was closest to our hearts, we all had different answers. For McKenzie, the important social issue for her was elderly dogs. She believes that all dogs deserve love, and the fact that elderly dogs are as neglected as they are is heartbreaking. After spending the whole night playing fetch with Johnny Karate, I could easily see why this issue was important to her. For me, the answer was racism. This has not always been the case, but through my participation in Honors 251, I have seen that racism is a much bigger issue than I had ever seen before. I have become more aware of racism in my everyday life, and have since felt convicted to make a change. Despite the fact that our passions about social issues were different, we were all able to see each other’s perspectives and recognize these problems.
After returning home from this night of discussion, I realized how grateful I was for this project. Although we may not have been the most diverse group of people, we all had important things to say. As we discussed citizenship and democracy, I realized that despite difference in political views, we all have similar concerns for citizenship and how we live well together. This experience has been one that I will never forget, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Zach, McKenzie, and Johnny Karate.