My meal took place in the city I was born and raised in: Louisville, Kentucky. I hosted my dinner at my sister’s apartment downtown, and we invited many of her friends. Everyone at the dinner attends the University of Louisville, and most of the guys were part of a fraternity. Although everyone who attended was approximately the same age, there was still an array of diversity, from sexuality to religion to upbringing.
Starting from the far left of my photo is Allison. Allison is one of my sister’s roommates and the only other person at the dinner that I knew besides my sister. Allison grew up in Bowling Green in a very conservative household with strict parents. She claims that her parents are extremely strict on some matters, such as boys and clothing, but lenient on others, such as alcohol and marijuana. Second is Joe #1. Joe #1 was extremely quiet the whole dinner, and when I asked him about himself, he said his life is “normal.” I never learned much about Joe #1 except that he is a sophomore and in the Lambda Qi fraternity at the University of Louisville. Next is Foster. Foster is a freshman, a Lambda Qi associate member. Throughout the course of the dinner, Foster was almost as quiet as Joe #1, although he did laugh a lot. I do not know much about Joe #1 or Foster, except that they smoke a lot of weed and were too high that night to give much input. Next up is Kyle, the sweetest, most respectful college-aged boy I have ever met. Kyle has very strong values and had tons of good input. After Kyle is his best friend Adam. Adam’s family grew up impoverished in downtown Louisville. He is very outgoing around people, but seemed shy when answering questions.
Next is Sophie, my older sister. Like me, Sophie grew up a preacher’s daughter, and has since, also like me, drifted away from her faith. Our parents are very conservative, but Sophie is very adventurous and independent. On the far end of the couch is Kayla. Both of Kayla’s parents came out as gay after Kayla was born. Her mother remarried a woman, and Kayla lives with them. Kayla doesn’t see or speak to her father anymore. Kayla was also very quiet the whole evening. Next to Kayla is Joe #2. Joe #2 is from Louisville; he grew up Catholic but now identifies as agnostic. Joe #2 seemed to be a very wise, in-tune person. Next is Rachel. Rachel is Allison’s cousin and is also from Bowling Green. Rachel is also a freshman, and she is openly gay. Lastly is Alex. Alex talked the most, and about a lot of things, however I never got much out of anything he said. He is from Louisville and lives at home with his parents. He grew up religious but is not so much anymore.
I started the dinner by having everyone share a little bit about themselves, and I asked follow-up questions to get to know each person better. We spent a decent amount of time doing this because I wanted everyone to get to know each other and be comfortable talking. Most everyone seemed at ease and willing to share, although some did take a slight bit of prodding. I asked the mandatory question of course, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” I think people were a little stumped by this question and couldn’t really think of much. I got a couple answers about being there for people and supporting one another. We ended up talking about community, and being involved. The group agreed that being a part of a community is important when it comes to citizenship. I tried not to dwell on this question too much because, even though it was our one required question, it didn’t spark much conversation.
I asked a handful of the optional questions, ones that I thought would get some decent discussion. With almost every question, the conversation tended to veer back towards the idea of community. With one question, “What do you think are the best things about our world today,” Kyle said the internet. His point was how close it has made us. It has developed its own community that would otherwise not be possible. I asked if there were any downsides to the internet, and the group agreed that there is, but the benefits outweigh the negatives. They all seemed to just want to be good, loving, kind people. When I asked them if they thought they had an obligation to their community, they all immediately agreed that we all do. I found that interesting because in our class discussion on obligation, it took a while for us to decide. In class, we spent more time thinking and deliberating; we did not act upon our gut reaction.
Everyone who attended my dinner was very receptive and willing, but most of them were shy. Alex and Kyle would jump to give me a response, with the occasional initial answer from Joe #2. Once somebody answered, however, the rest of the group was more willing to give their opinion. It took a little longer to get the conversation going than I anticipated. I had to help mediate and include a few people here and there, but overall, I had a very good group.
My group was large, which I liked because it allowed for more personal side conversations. It seems strange, but I felt like everyone felt more at ease knowing they could occasionally gather in a smaller group they felt more comfortable in. It made the larger group discussions more impactful, and allowed me to listen in on the smaller discussions, getting to know everybody better. People would talk a little in a smaller group, and then come to the larger group and share their opinions. The smaller groups gave everyone a more comfortable atmosphere to come up with ideas. This reminds me of our class. We are given some time in the beginning to discuss in a pair or small group. We can gather our thoughts and then feel comfortable sharing our organized thoughts with the larger group.
If I am to be completely honest, I did not really learn much from this activity. Going into it, I had high hopes and expectations; I thought it was a cool activity and I would get a lot out of it. I know most people are the opposite, thinking this project is dumb and pointless. They then host the dinner and find that is was helpful and interesting. I, on the other hand, did not get much out of my dinner. I thought I did it correctly, and I thought we had pretty good discussion, but it just didn’t do much for me. I think I was stressing about the project too much that I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the dinner. I was worried about cooking and inviting and making sure everyone was happy when they arrived. I do, however, think the project is a good idea. Although I did not learn anything tangible, it gave me the opportunity to meet new people and hear thoughts from a diverse group.
This Kentucky Kitchen Table related to the central question of the class, “How do we live well together?” The whole discussion was geared toward the idea of community and how we can be there for those around us. A reading that closely relates is “The Empathy Exams Essays” by Leslie Jamison. This reading is about how humans want to feel cared for. We all have feelings, and we want our feelings to be validated by other people. It can be difficult to empathize with somebody, especially if you have not been through what they are going through and you do not understand their pain. We all deal with stuff, and we all expect someone to care. Caring for a struggling person can be hard when you are struggling yourself. We all must realize that we can live well together and support each other, but we cannot have unreasonable expectations of others.
The book “Citizen” by Claudia Rankine is another class reading that relates to the question “How do we live well together?” This book is all about an African American woman living in a mostly white world. She is explaining her experiences with racism and discrimination. My dinner group would say that the people in her community have an obligation to stand up to her. They should treat her equally and with respect, and should defend her in a time of need. This book is all about community and working together to improve our world.
Overall, this Kentucky Kitchen Table experience was mediocre. It was a very interesting project, and I have never done anything like it. I am grateful that I had the chance to experience something like this. It was more fun and exciting than a paper; it was a real, hands on project. It was a good thing to do and I think it benefits most people.