Late on a Thursday evening I headed to a dinner where I was to eat with two girls I had never met before. Very nervously, and after 10 minutes spent trying to parallel park, I knocked on the front door of my host’s apartment, cupcakes in hand. I was greeted with the smiling face of my host, McKenzie, and an adorable, chunky little dog who seemed more excited than either of us. Walking in I noticed the many walls dedicated to Western pictures, paintings, and other memorabilia. We heard a knock on the door and welcomed in our other dinner member, Sabrina, who is also a Citizen and Self student.
Our Kentucky Kitchen Table took place in Bowling Green, Kentucky and consisted of many helpings of mac and cheese and chicken nuggets as well as Oreo’s and cupcakes. As the three of us all sat around talking on couches and bar stools we realized how far from strangers we actually were and it seemed as though we had a lot in common.
I quickly learned that McKenzie had been my sister’s RA for two years and it was funny to realize how connected we were. She asked me all about how my sister was, how Auburn and vet school were going, and especially about how my sister’s new puppy, a golden retriever named Zuri (all of which she knew), was. McKenzie seemed to have been close to my sister as she was very excited in telling me that they were Facebook friends and knew all about my sister’s 10 week trip to South Africa. After filling her in on my sister’s life I asked her a little bit about her own life here in Bowling Green. She graduated from Western and is currently working further on her psychology major and communications minor in School Psychology and the EDS program. She is from a rural area outside of Louisville but both of her parents attended Western which is where they met and fell in love. Growing up Western was the only school she had really ever thought about going to and she still thinks it was the perfect decision.
When asked how she described herself, McKenzie said that the one thing all of her friends described her as was an intense lover of senior dogs. Her dog 10 year old dog Johnny Karate, yes named after Parks and Rec, was her newest addition to the family, being rescued from the shelter, and never left her side. Her love for him was evident in the many chicken nuggets he was slipped throughout the night, and even though she said he did not get that special treatment often I had a feeling she was just hiding how spoiled he was, as shown by his very large belly. She told us the story of how he was found in a Walmart parking lot so she felt that she had to make up for this by giving into him, saying that he won the arguments most of the time.
I learned that Sabrina also has a degree involving communications and the two talked about who their favorite professors were and McKenzie gave some insight on who Sabrina should try to take and who she should steer clear of. I also learned that Sabrina came to Western not knowing anybody from her hometown of Nashville and, like me, had made a lot of friends here.
We all three talked about whether we enjoyed living here or not and all had different answers which I thought showed our different personalities. McKenzie said that while she loved living in Bowling Green and loved the people here she wants to move somewhere else after living in Kentucky for her entire 23 years of life. She noted that on her study abroad trip (which I will discuss later) she fell in love with the weather in England as it never got too hot and snowed just enough for you to say “wow this is pretty” and not “oh I hope I’m not snowed in for weeks.” Sabrina, being from Nashville, said that sometimes it gets a little boring, which I can agree to. I personally love living in Bowling Green but I think I should attribute that to the fact that my parents are not here to tell me I can’t go out past midnight (sorry mom.)
As we ate our meal, we talked about how our semesters are going and our plans for the coming years. We all seemed to have an interest in studying abroad and McKenzie told about her experience, as Sabrina and I were very intrigued. McKenzie studied in England at Harlaxton and told of all the fun adventures she took when she had time away from all of her school work. She said it was one of the greatest experiences of her life. Sabrina shared her plans of studying in Norwich, England at East Anglia University in the Spring of 2018. I too am interested in studying abroad and while I have not committed to a trip I am very interested in taking a weeklong trip to Bolivia where nursing students can help underprivileged people by setting up medical tents.
Once we were finished eating and we seemed to be running out of things to talk about, as strangers eventually do, and before things got too awkward, we got to the core question and the real reason we were there. We asked McKenzie what citizenship meant to her, beyond things like voting, paying taxes, and following laws. There was a long pause and we all chuckled a little as she said she needed some time to think of her answer. After a few moments, she concluded that being a citizen means that we all help each other out. She said “we are all here on this Earth together, we might as well make it easier for each other instead of getting so wrapped up and miserable in our own lives.” Another thing she said that I really liked was that our goal as humans should be to make our little corner of the Earth a little brighter and that kindness is such a small thing but that we don’t have enough of it, meaning we just need to try and pick everyone up and make the world a happy place. Sabrina and I both agreed and added a little bit to what we thought being a citizen meant. Sabrina said that citizenship is about the community and working to live well with people around us, even if it gets hard sometimes. I personally think that we all need to be kind to each other because as cliché as it sounds, we really do not know what is going on in other people’s lives. After we all talked about what citizenship meant to us McKenzie jokingly asked Johnny what he thought it meant and I imagined his response to be something along the lines of “citizenship means kindness and kindness means you give me more nuggets.”
While our conversations never got super in depth on our values or our morals or anything of that nature I noticed how similar our lives were in many aspects and how easily it was for all three of us to share about ourselves. This dinner taught me that even though we may not all come from the same places, we are not all necessarily interested in all of the same things, and we are varying ages, there can still be thoughtful, pleasant, and insightful conversations. I think that McKenzie was a wonderful example of being a good citizen by inviting two random college students into her home and helping them with a project, this is kindness on her part. On mine and Sabrina’s side, kindness came from the thoughtful desserts and help we gave each other.
This whole experience relates to the central question: “How do we live well together?” We talked about how kindness would help us all live better together. We were all very accepting of each other and respected what everyone had to say and this is yet another example of how we live better together. This assignment reminded me of the reading that we had at the very beginning of the semester called “How We Talk Matters” by Keith Melville. In the article, Melville discusses the effects of listening and not just talking. To make the world a better place and to begin to live better together we need to thoughtfully listen to others instead of discarding opinions different than ours or discarding something someone says simply because they are different than us. In our conversation about what citizenship meant to us we built off of each others ideas in a very positive way and I think this should be something the world as a whole does more often to make everyone happier and live better together.
Going into this assignment I just wanted to get it over with because I am a somewhat shy person but McKenzie and Sabrina were very easy people to talk to and I think that we all had a very good time. Overall I very much enjoyed this assignment and getting to meet new people and hear about their lives and talk about our differing opinions on certain things.