For my Kentucky Kitchen Table project, we met at a restaurant in Bowling Green, Kentucky called Double Dogs. Double Dogs is a sports bar that serves food anywhere from pizza to clam chowder. The people that were there were all part of my family, and we thought it would be interesting to involve our waitress in the project. Our waitress’s name was Amy (you can see her photobombing our picture above). She seemed to be of Middle Eastern background, but we did not ask her about that. She was young and was possibly in college or had just graduated. My family members’ names are my aunt Mary, uncle Todd, grandmother Miki, grandfather David, uncle Chris and aunt Kelly. All of them share similar political views and religious beliefs, but they are all different in some ways as well. They each come from different places and backgrounds. My grandparents are originally from New Albany, Indiana. They came to Western Kentucky University together and stayed here to raise my mom and uncle Chris. My aunt Mary and uncle Todd are both from Bowling Green, Kentucky. Aunt Kelly is from Owensboro, Kentucky. Different backgrounds and families shape the way you think and act. I was interested to see how they each would answer my questions.
The first question I asked was the required question that says, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Out of the things we talked about, the ones that stood out the most were pride, freedom and the responsibility you have as a citizen. Everyone agreed that being a citizen is a privilege. Chris said he felt prideful and thankful that he was a citizen in a country like this. Miki pointed out that the freedom we have in this country means a lot to her. She said this country was founded on freedom. Laws like the Bill of Rights give us basic, but important freedoms. Todd said that these freedoms give us opportunities to get up every day and strive to be successful. American citizens can be anybody they want to be. Amy said the freedom to express yourself was important to her, another aspect this country was founded on.
The next question I asked said, “What do you think are the best things about our world today?” Chris made the point that the communication technology and the internet we have now really shows how it’s a small world after all. Then we started singing the song from the Small World amusement ride at Disney World, in the middle of Double Dogs. Luckily no one seemed to mind. Others said they liked the advancements in medical technology. These advancements improve the quality of life and the longevity of life. David said he thought people of the world stepping up to help each other in times of need was very important. He also said that this question would be easier if it was only about the United States. I asked him what he meant by that and he explained that religious freedom and the quality of life here is better. This made everyone at the table think about how lucky we are to be living in this country with more freedoms than others in some cases.
The third question I asked said, “Does your religious or spiritual identity relate to how you think we should treat other people?” and “Does it relate to how you see yourself as a citizen?” Almost at the same time, everyone said, “Yes!” Nana said she was just watching “The View” on TV where they talked about even if you are not religious, people still follow the Ten Commandment rules. Everyone has the same sense of morality. Either we were born with it or we learned it as we grew up. Everyone at the table also agreed that their religious identity relates to how they see themselves as a citizen. Todd said that sometimes your religious views can make a difference on who you vote for. Nana pointed out that this country was founded on religious freedom. Aunt Mary made a good point when she said, “In God We Trust” is on all of our money and some of the monuments around the country. Religion is very important to a lot of people in this country. We reached the consensus that what we believe is right can definitely change the way you treat other people.
The fourth question asked what kind of person everyone wanted to be. Chris said he wanted to be 6’4” with hair. More seriously though, Miki said she wanted to be a Margaret. Margaret is my grandmother on my dad’s side of the family. She passed away during September of last year. She was loved by everyone and made an impact on each person she knew. Miki continued by saying the person who she wants to be all depends on how people remember you. That got a big “Amen” from several people at the table. Kelly said she wants to become a better Christian. Todd said he wants to build strong, meaningful relationships with people. Miki said she would like to become more involved in community participation. Amy said she wanted to be honest, loyal and hardworking. Chris and Kelly said something that really stood out to me. Chris said he wants to be exhausted at the end of life, and he wants to feel like he has done everything he ever wanted to do. Kelly brought up a poem called, “The Dash” by Linda Ellis. In short it says that the dash between the two years on your tombstone matter the most. While discussing this, we drew two conclusions: we want to be remembered as a good person and we want to make the best of the years between life and death.
The last question I asked said, “What social issue is closest to your heart and why?” This was probably the hardest question for them to answer. This could be because there are so many to choose from, or because they feel strongly about more than one issue. Todd and Mary said abortion was the social issue closest to their heart. When I asked them to elaborate, they explained that their religious beliefs tie into it, but they could see the reasons for it like if there were to be a rape case or something like that. But it is still a baby that cannot save itself. Kelly talked about capital punishment and the sanctity of life being most important to her. Religious beliefs tied into that too. Miki said spouse and child abuse stuck out to her the most. She explained her feelings of sympathy for those families who don’t have the resources or education to get themselves out of that situation. Meaning money or they don’t know who to talk to. David said the use of illegal drugs upset him. He said the ability of drugs to tear families apart hits home for him.
Some of the things mentioned relate to this class. In class, we talked about morality during our week two readings. David Brooks’ essay, “If It Feels Right” talked about how we make moral decisions. In the reading, he claimed that personal interests influence your moral decisions. Around the table, it seemed like religion, which is a personal interest, played a big part in everyone’s sense of morality. In class, we asked ourselves where does one get their sense of morality? Are you just born with it? Or do you learn it while growing up? Being born with your sense of morality connects with a religious factor. At Double Dogs, when we talked about if religious identities could shape the way you think people should be treated, morality was brought up, and it was the center of our discussion for this question. My mind was blown when Miki told us about what they said on “The View”, claiming that religious or not, people still follow the ten commandment rules, and that everyone has a similar sense of morality. This showed me that yes, there is good in the world, and we can have hope in humanity. Learning the moral values while you grow up goes with one of the central questions of our class that says, “How do we live well with each other?” One of the ways we can live well with one another is by setting good examples to those around us. It is easy for someone to follow someone else, so long that there are leaders for people to follow. We can all be leaders in some way.
The Kentucky Kitchen table experience taught me a few things that hit home for me. It taught me that your beliefs, religious or not, can change the way you think, act, treat others, dream and how you view yourself. What was said around or table at Double Dogs made think, “Hey this goes for me too!” or “I agree.” Most of the reasons people gave for why they said something all drew back to their religious beliefs or sense of morality. Sometimes religion teaches you those moral values. I liked this project very much. It was nice to get to see my family members and have a nice lunch with them. I thought at first talking about some of this stuff with them would be kind of weird, and I hoped that it wouldn’t start a fight between anyone. It turned out though that everyone loved it. It gave everyone the chance to voice their opinion about some important topics of today. This project turned out to be an absolutely positive experience.