This Kentucky Kitchen Table was a very new and interesting learning experience. It took place in Somerset, Kentucky at a local Mexican restaurant. The dinner consisted of a variety of people, all of which brought great insight to the project and conversation as a whole. My step dad, Wes, was there. He is a local photographer who loves working with and around other people. He was also the reason we were all gathered together, it was his 40th birthday. My mother, Chrissa, was there as well. She is 38 years old and a CPA who also works in the stock market; she is very much a “numbers” person and enjoys figuring out patterns and probelms. My grandmother, Rita, was also present at the dinner. She has recently turned 65 and although I very rarely get to see her, I greatly admire the fact that she is a jack-of-all-trades. She has been hired to do several jobs such as work at the courthouse, law offices, insurance agencies, and many more things. My boyfriend Randy was there as well. Randy is 19 years old and is majoring in construction management. He is also one of the easiest people to get along with and enjoyed engaging this conversation. My little sister, Maddie, also joined us. Maddie is 13, however if you ask her she will make it very clear that she is 13 and three quarters. She’s a very sweet girl who doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up, but she wants to try and help as many people as possible. And last, but not least, my younger brother, Blake, was there as well. He is 15 and tends to keep to himself, but he loves technology and hopes to learn how to build computers.
Through out this dinner, we talked about a wide variety of things. We started out by having everyone answer the required question of “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Some of the answers I got for this question were incredibly inspiring. Maddie told me that she believed citizenship meant doing the right thing and helping people in your community when you can. Blake told me that it was being nice to everyone. He stated, “When you have citizenship, you are part of a community. So you need to care about and be nice to the people close to you. Everyone needs each other, so just be nice.” Randy said that he believed citizenship was “working together to build not only a better future, but a better today as well.” However, Rita’s answer was probably the most entertaining. She said that “citizenship is when you’re surrounded by people you love. You don’t have to like them, but it makes life a whole lot easier if you at least love them.”
Some other aspects of our conversation included things such as broad questions about the world we live in as a whole and then much more personalized questions such as which social aspects we all care about as individuals. It was also very interesting to see the differences in the types of communities everyone wanted to live in. It seemed as if there is a major generation gap with the answers to this question. For example, Rita wanted a very close nit community, one in which everyone knows each other very well and on a deep, personal level. However, my mother and step dad wanted much more privacy. They did not care whether or not they knew everyone in their community; they just wanted to keep to themselves. But Blake, Maddie, and Randy’s answers all provided a wide variety of options. Blake wanted some anonymity, but still wanted to know at least some people in his town, such as his neighbors. However, Maddie and Randy wanted much more deep and personal connections with the people they lived near. They wanted a much more personal sense of community in which everyone was very involved and caring towards each other. I thought it was very interesting to see how the oldest generation present wanted no anonymity, the middle generation wanted all of it, and the youngest generation seemed to have a split between the two. These differences added to the diversity of the conversation and everyone seemed very happy to hear how the others felt about it.
Another component of the conversation that I think is worth mentioning is the different types of ways that people answered the question “what kind of person do you want to be?” Everyone seemed to be on the same page of “I want to be a good person.” But after hearing this generic response we all dove into what being a “good person” meant for each person that was present. After much discussion, we came to the conclusion that being a good person is a very broadly defined concept and almost everyone changed his or her answers after this conversation. They were changed to things such as “I want to be a more understanding person,” “I want to be a kind person,” and “I want to be a trustworthy person.” These are all things that everyone thought a good person and a good citizen should be in order to be better help serve and take part in the community as a whole as well as improve their own personal lives.
An important aspect of the KKT was when the question “is there anything you can think to do that might make things better for you or your neighbors where you live?” everyone seemed to displayed different thought processes and responses to this question, but it is very important to note that everyone did want to do something to help better the community around them. Some people at the table seemed to go towards a more personalized approach, such as going around and doing nice things for each of their neighbors one at a time such as raking their yards or offering to help them with individual tasks. While others wanted a more broad approach, such as starting a community garden or starting a neighborhood watch program. However, everyone seemed to focus on what they could do to help others, instead of themselves, and I thought this was very aw-inspiring.
What I learned from this was that everyone has their own ways of viewing not only the world, but the community around them as well. The diversity in generations, genders, and where and how people were raised seemed to play a factor in how they perceived citizenship. However, there were some similarities that I think helped bring everyone together such as the over all theme of “be a good person/citizen” and “help others.” But I also think it is very important to not only recognize, but celebrate the differences that we all have as well. Everyone seemed to place emphasis on different aspects of the conversation; for example Maddie had a lot to say about what social issue she cared about (bullying) while Rita really cared about advice she would give to people running for office. I believe that this diversity helped to further the conversation and help enrich not only this conversation, but the entirety of our lives as well.
I believe that this relates to our class in a variety of ways. For example, this conversation reminded me of our weekly deliberations very much so. In our class deliberations, typically everyone participates and contributes to the conversation. We also are presented with several different views on the same subject material. Also, our deliberations take place in a “safe place” where people could freely express their opinions on different subjects. This is very similar to how my KKT went. Everyone that was present took place and added several different, but valuable contributions to the discussion and shared the way they truly felt. The deliberation type style helps to contribute to how smoothly the conversation went and I also think that this setting helped everyone feel as if they could freely say how they felt about each issue.
This also relates to the honors 251 course because both our class and this KKT shared the commonality that it covered citizenship and individualism. In both of these contexts, a bridge was discussed as well. We often talk about where we are and how we will get to where we want to be. By improving our individual selves and working together as a community, we will be able to get across the bridge and not only improve our citizenship skills but improved the world in which we live at the same time.
I am very appreciative of this experience. It was a wonderful way to get to see how people in my community felt about different issues that impact their daily lives. It was incredibly eye opening and helped me become more open minded, this is also something that this course as a whole has done for me. I am pleased to say that this KKT went very well and I am happy that it was a requirement for this course.
(I am very sorry my photograph is upside down, I do not know how to fix this.)