The meal took place in my hometown of Lexington, Indiana. It is a very small town that no one has ever heard of. It’s mostly farmland and people are spread far in between. I have learned to appreciate the area though because everyone is very friendly and willing to help each other if needed. I have lived here for around six or seven years now. I chose to eat at my house because I was not as nervous to start the discussion. I also think the location can help with the understanding of people’s answers. Joining me for the meal were five people I know. Those people being Jodi, Jerry, Sharon, Delores, and Abbey. Jodi is an elementary school teacher and has been for over twenty years. Jerry is retired, volunteers at King’s Daughters’ Hospital, and is very involved in his church. He never had the opportunity to go to college growing up because his father became very ill and he had to take care of him. Sharon, Jerry’s wife, also is retired, volunteers at King’s Daughters’ Hospital, and is involved in the church. She also did not go to college. She worked at a bank as a teller most of her life and became very good at talking to people. Delores is Catholic and ninety-four years old. She is retired but still volunteers in many ways. She volunteers at the hospital, helps feed people at nursing homes, and she makes meals for some of her older friends in her neighborhood. Abbey is twenty-one and currently pursuing a major in elementary education and a minor in business at Indiana University Southeast. Her mother is currently an elementary teacher and served as a major influence on Abbey’s decision of her major.
Our conversation was primarily centered around the topic of neighbors. Everyone knew their neighbors and could explain how they met their neighbors. We also discussed what each person could do to better their neighborhood. I learned that everyone knew their neighbors somewhat well. Jodi knew her neighbor somewhat well because her neighbor is retired and is usually on her front porch when Jodi gets back from work, so they usually talk for a while. At the same time, Jodi did not exactly seem thrilled to have had so many discussions with her neighbors. This kind of came in to concern for me. Shouldn’t people want to get to know those around them? By not knowing those around you, it prevents the community from running at his highest level. Although this is a common occurrence, I think people should make an extra effort to make an impact in the areas around them. Everyone else in the group just knew their neighbors’ names. Abbey’s answer was unique because all of her neighbors are family members. She said that she obviously knows all her neighbors, but even with her family all living close together, she may not see some of her neighbors all that much.
When asking each individual if they enjoyed having meals with their family I received a resounding yes, but then I asked if they ever had a meal with their neighbors. I got a no from everyone at the table but Delores and Abbey. That is probably because Delores’s neighbor is one of her best friends and Abbey’s neighbors are family. I was more focused on the people who answered no. The reason is that we have been learning in class deliberation is key. I was thinking about how your neighbors, although you may not know them well, are some of the closest people to you, so wouldn’t you want to know where they stand on different things? I am by no means saying you should invite your neighbors to eat so you can engage in a battle of opinions because that is not the best first impression, but what I am trying to say is that it would be nice to know where your neighbors stand on different issues. By doing so, this would also be making it easier to converse with your neighbors rather than just awkwardly saying “hey” whenever you pass them on the way to your house.
Another thing I want to point out is what I noticed when discussing the required question about citizenship. I noticed when asking what citizenship meant, most of the people could not get past following the laws. Jodi made a good point that being a citizen means doing what’s best for your society and having an opinion about your society, but also respecting other’s ideas of society. This sparked the theme of deliberation and how we must take our opinions and compare them to other opinions to come up with the best solution. Once Jodi made this point, I noticed that the rest of the table agreed and found the point made very insightful. It led me to wonder if everyone knows what deliberation means, but did not realize that they did it all the time. When it came to the other questions, I also recognized that people were openly accepting others’ answers and building on them to develop better answers to questions (specifically the question of citizenship). After Jodi’s answer to the question, the others who were stuck on the idea following laws suddenly started coming up with different answers to the question itself.
Aside from all the answers I was getting I noticed that Jerry was staying particularly quiet. Although I tried to give everyone a chance to speak, a conversation would usually spark up after someone else’s answer before Jerry got a chance to speak. This situation applies to the concept of deliberation in a very important way. Deliberation deals with balance. You do not want one or two people controlling the conversations. Jerry very well might have had some solid points or answers to the different questions, but I will not know because I did not give him the opportunity to answer. This happens in discussions all the time. When one or two people are held out of the conversation, the other’s do not get to hear their point of view. These people who are silent could very well have had an opinion or two that could have changed the entire conversation. That is why some deliberations fail and problems are not solved. Without everyone’s input the best idea may not always be revealed. This was something that we discussed in class. It is important to fairly incorporate everyone in conversations in order to have a complete deliberation of an issue.
By focusing on the concept of neighbors it enabled me to focus on one of the essential questions of our class. The question is, “How do we live well together?” One specific question I asked was about what each person could do to help improve their and their neighbors’ community. I got several answers of things that could be done, but not necessarily things that each person is capable of. For example, Sharon, who is in her mid-seventies, offered the idea of fixing the potholes on their street and repairing the light poles. This sparked to the memory the speech we read, “To Hell with Good Intentions,” Ivan Illich. In his speech he talks about how people should help in areas that they have knowledge of. Sharon is not necessarily capable or knowledgeable enough to fix the potholes and street lights, but she could possible provide snacks and drinks to the workers who are hired to fix these problems. This scenario shows how each person can still play an important role in issues of community. Jodi’s answer was different from most of the others. She stated that she did not think there was anything necessary of improving in her community. I viewed her answer in two different ways. In one way I viewed that she was pleased with her community and was satisfied with everything around her. The other way I viewed it dealt with the idea that maybe she was not involved enough in her community to know what would be good improvements. As a whole, everyone should have a knowledge of their community in order play a role and make an impact for the better of society.
One thing I can take away from all of this is that knowing the people closest to you is extremely important. Your community provides you with the opportunity to make a huge impact. Your community should be the area you have the most knowledge of and should be the area that you want to make the biggest impact on. Another central question of our class is, “How do we solve problems?” In order to solve problems, we must be able to deliberate with one another, but in order to deliberate with one another, we must have a knowledge of the topic at hand. The community you live in is your best opportunity to make an impact. I think people should make an added effort to learn more about the people around them in order to be able to discuss issues with those people.