On a rainy Thursday evening, I trekked the 15 minute walk into unknown territory for a dinner. Nervous, but excited, I knocked on the door, cookies in hand, to meet our gracious host, McKenzie.
The apartment was decorated with Western Kentucky University paraphernalia, and an eager dog, Johnny greeted me.
Our dinner in Bowling Green, Kentucky was very relaxed with plentiful helpings of macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. We gathered around on the couches and kitchen counters, discussing majors, hometowns, and traveling.
McKenzie, our host, is a graduate student at Western Kentucky University. She is from a rural area outside of Louisville. Johnny, her dog, remained close to her side, and she shared with us her love for senior dogs. Mckenzie is the oldest of five in her family.
Hannah, another student in Honors 251, is studying to become a nurse anesthesiologist. Hannah is the youngest in her family, and both her older sister and brother also attended Western Kentucky University. Outgoing and friendly, Hannah talked about her cat she misses at home and her tight-knit group of friends she has made her at Western.
As we ate our meal, we discussed how our semester was going. McKenzie and I, both having communication in our degrees, discussed our favorite professors in the field. Mckenzie studied abroad in England at Harlaxton, saying she would love to live in England. After living in Kentucky for 23 years, she is ready to travel and go someplace new, but it will still be a few years, as she finishes school in 2019. Hannah and I both asked her many questions about study abroad, as I plan on studying abroad the Spring of 2018 in England at East Anglia University in Norwich. Hannah would like to go on some trips, but specifically a trip to Bolivia, where nursing students get the opportunity to help people with various medical needs.
When asked, “what does citizenship mean to you?” McKenzie pondered the thought for a while before responding. She concluded that it means helping each other out, as we are all here on this Earth, we might as well make it easier for each other. We get so wrapped into our own lives, but kindness and being helpful is a small thing that can make a huge difference. Hannah and I agreed. Hannah added that we all need to be kind to each other because we don’t know what is going on in people’s lives, and the harmony it gives can bring us all together. I added that citizenship is about community, and working to live well with people around us.
Jokingly, McKenzie asked “what does citizenship mean to you, Johnny?” Johnny, wagging his tail, stared up at Mckenzie, his eyes begging for food and attention. Throughout the dinner, he strutted around, eyeing plates of food, and even being adventurous enough to climb the couch and almost reach over to my plate on the table, but he proved to be slightly too short. “Is it about getting chicken nuggets?” she asked, feeding one to the now elated dog.
We asked each other how we liked living in Bowling Green, and we all agreed it is a nice place to live with low crime rates and things to do. Being from Nashville, I do get bored from time to time, and McKenzie agreed that she would like to live somewhere else eventually.
We discovered at the dinner that Hannah’s older sister and McKenzie knew each other beforehand, as Mckenzie has her Resident Assistant. Hannah was able to update Mckenzie on how her older sister was going, and they talked about an amazing trip her sister took to South Africa, full of helping people and animals, and petting wildlife.
From there, McKenzie talked about Johnny’s story. Johnny, her 10 year-old dog, was a fairly recent addition to her family, as her previous dog had passed away. Johnny was rescued from a Wal-Mart parking lot, where his previous owners had left him. The shelter took him in, and after being there for two months, Mckenzie decided to adopt him.
She asked us “Do either of you guys have dogs or pets at home?” to which i replied with my extensive story about our history of animals in the house, from cats to lizards. Both Mckenzie’s mom and my mom are not huge animal-lovers, so it was hard convincing our parents to let us have pets growing up.
Hannah has a cat, named Chunks, that was a birthday present a few years back. Her sister came across a litter of kittens, and was able to take some to care for, and Hannah fell in love with them.
While our conversations seemed relatively basic in writing, I found it interesting how our lives tied together in certain ways, and how easily conversation flowed among us. It truly demonstrated to me that people of various ages, majors, backgrounds, can sit down and still have a peaceful and enjoyable dinner. We helped each other throughout the dinner as well, by sharing our thoughts, giving tips about certain classes and professors, and showing enthusiasm for opportunities others had.
By doing this, we demonstrated our own sense of citizenship by being kind to each other. We each brought food for the others, provided each other transportation, and our host graciously opened up her house to the community.
I think doing events like this reminds us that we are a community and we work best when we get along with each other and take others’ lives into account. Hannah could have chosen not to give me a ride to the dinner, McKenzie could have chosen not to open up her home, each of us could have chosen not to bring food. All of these things are small things that didn’t take much effort, but show kindness and is simply a mannerly way of living in society. Community involves looking out for each other and putting aside differences and ultimately understanding other perspectives to better our relationships with other people in our community who may be different from us.
Our whole dinner and this assignment relates to one of our central questions in class, “How do we live well (or at least somewhat better) together?” Individually, each person has their own array of gifts and talents, as well as their own backgrounds and cultures. By working together, communities can strengthen each other and make the atmosphere we all live in more harmonious.
The Kentucky Kitchen Table dinner reminded me of one of our readings we did near the beginning of the semester by Keith Melville, called “How We Talk Matters.” Melville discusses how we shouldn’t be against each other, as we all live in this world together, which related to how our table views citizenship. It is not an “us versus them” mentality that we should have. We discussed issues rationally, and genuinely listened to each other’s thoughts and ideas, and built off of each other. Not only is this a more productive approach to talking about issues within our community, but it was a more sincere and thoughtful conversation, and demonstrated warmth and care for each other.
I was nervous going into the assignment, and part of me was dreaded it as I didn’t know the people I would be having dinner with, and I am generally shy around new people. However, the conversation seemed to run smoothly and while we have different interests and beliefs, we managed to find common-ground and had an enjoyable evening full of food and good conversation.