My Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Bryce

For my Kentucky Kitchen Table I ate dinner at my house with my grandmother, two sisters, and my oldest sisters two friends from graduate school, Emily and Natalie.  My guests Emily and Natalie are both 3rd years in the Physical Therapy program and WKU.  Emily described herself as a token liberal from North Carolina, while Natalie said she is a freshly 26-year-old who just got kicked off her parent’s health insurance policy. For dinner we ate steak and potatoes that I prepared in the oven and on the grill.

My Kentucky Kitchen Table was diverse because we had my grandmother whose generation is known as the baby boomers and four members from my generation the millennials.  Emily added some diversity in political ideology as she identifies as a liberal on the political spectrum, whereas the rest of us leaned more toward Republican views.

We started the conversation by talking about what citizenship meant to each person at the table.  The obvious and immediate response was voting and being an American, as our identity as Americans is often associated with simply being born and living here.  Upon further prying, my grandmother explained that there is a sense of pride with being a citizen of the United States.  This is her country, she worked hard and lived her version of the American dream, going from a dirt floor house to a trailer, and finally building her own home on the plot of land beside her mother.  My sister went on to mention that citizenship is contributing to the community, and told us about her recent volunteer work at the Bowling Green Marathon where she gave massages to runners afterwards using her physical therapy training to help those with soreness and cramps.  Emily and Natalie were both in agreement on what they felt it meant to them, when Emily exclaimed “Freedom!” to which Natalie then added “Trump!”.

We later talked about our neighbors and I asked my guests if they knew theirs.  Apparently, their interaction with their neighbor was limited to getting yelled at for parking in their neighbors parking spot and their neighbor flirting with their roommate, which was described as “odd.”  Natalie’s neighbor also knocked over her tomato plant, which she was rather upset about.  My grandma informed us that she knows about all her neighbors, because they are mostly kin to her.  After a laugh, she said with all seriousness that it is nice to have them living nearby because she always has someone to watch the house whenever her and my grandfather take a golfing trip.  Next it was me and my sister’s turn to talk about our neighbors, and sadly we know ours about as well as Emily and Natalie.  We explained that we believe we may have ran off our neighbor to the right, as they are moving out after a year.  Our neighbors to the left we are unsure of their names, but know they have a live-in nanny whom we had met.  As for the house that backs up to us, we know them as the vampires because we only ever see the dad at night time doing work outside.  The Kentucky Kitchen Table really opened my eyes to the divide that has formed in society from my grandmother’s generation to my own.  Whereas my grandmother grew up in a town where everyone knew each other, family was nearby, and you knew your neighbors first name, my generation is growing up in a much more secluded and the definition of neighbor has gone from someone who shares a common community to simply the guy next door we have never actually seen before. There is more of a sense that each yard is one’s domain, and you do not cross into their domain ever.

We later discussed how no one at the table has a job and was leeches off the government and adding to the trillion-dollar debt when talking about seeing our jobs as serving a greater purpose in society.  While Emily went off on a tangent about how her student loans were one of the governments few sources of income because they are all paying back their student loans for PT school with interest.  As physical therapists though, it will be their jobs to help get people off drugs like opioids, or meth, according to Natalie.  They will serve a greater purpose in the fight against opioid addiction in America and try to help those who have fallen victim to the deadly addiction.  Emily then mentioned how as physical therapists help keep the people healthy and insurance rates down making them a great benefit to the community.

The conversation then switched to about how spiritual identity relates to how we think we should treat people, and the answers were a bit out there.  My sister started the conversation by saying “Yes!” emphatically, but then ending with “but maybe not for us.”  My grandma then said, “Well, I went to Catholic school, so the nuns beat it into us” on the way they should treat people, which seems counterproductive.  Emily then recalled that the worst thing they did at her Catholic school was “staple our shirts to our pants if they came untucked.”  So, although the methods of doing so seemed odd, the table mostly agreed that religion helped to shape our morals and how we believed we should treat others.  They referred to the Ten Commandments from the Bible where it says to love thy neighbor as proof that religion preaches a sense of community and to treat others with respect.

Related to the topic of having an obligation to others in our country, there was consensus at the table that we should help those who cannot help themselves.  This can extend from those with disability to the impoverished and to the elderly.  We felt that we also have an obligation to help our veterans better than we currently do in America because of the sacrifice they have made for us and for our country.  We all felt we could do small things like donating old clothes or toys as well as be less wasteful with things that could be reused to help those who are impoverished.

Family dinners seemed to be a common affair in the households of my guests as well as my grandmother.  Emily and Natalie both recall having a family dinner every night growing up until they left for college.  In my household, scheduling conflicts and our active lives often keep us from eating as a family.  While no one ever eats alone, people tend to come and go from the dinner table in my house.  I may be eating and ten minutes later my sister and mother join, and I leave the table before my father sits down to eat.  Many times, my family will eat, and certain members not even be home.  My grandmother however eats with my grandfather most every night, and will even have her sister’s over to eat with from time to time.

Next, we changed topics to what kind of person everyone wanted to be.  The responses were good, Emily wants to be known as caring and giving, Natalie believes it is important to be compassionate and kind, and my grandmother said to be the kind of person to others that you would want them to be to you. My sister’s answer was a bit more comical, with her focus being a good physical therapist who doesn’t get sued for malpractice.  I said that personally I want to be someone that is remembered for something, whether big or small, to know I left an impact and put my stamp on something in this world.  I think that would be a great thing to add to my resume of who I am along with the other things mentioned at the table, besides the physical therapist not sued for malpractice.

The conversation got fun when I asked the question about what kind of advice would they give to someone running for office.  My sister was quick to say “Delete Twitter.  Immediately,” about the controversy over the current use of social media in politics.  My grandma and Emily chimed in that they felt it was important to tell them to make sure they are running to create positive change, and not for monetary gain or status. Natalie added in that you should make yourself seen, not heard and get out in the community if you want to run for office. This way, people can tell you are genuine and feel as though you are really running for them and not for yourself.

We ended the dinner conversation with a question on what social issue was most important to each person.  My sister began with a state level issue of the teacher pension removal plan currently in the state legislature.  It will get rid of the pension plan and move all teacher’s retirements to 401k plans.  She feels this will cost many teachers lots of money in retirement and will hurt the teaching profession as many of the better teachers will choose to leave the state in search of better retirements or better pay, and will also keep quality people from entering the teaching profession, ultimately affecting our future student’s educations.  My grandma was more concerned with the issue of same-sex marriage.  She did not feel it was fair that many states are still fighting against its legalization and that many churches turn away same sex couples.  While she admitted that it wasn’t for her, she believes that they should have the right to get married. This was a neat experience to eat with two people I had only ever met once at 2am driving them and my sister home from a bar.  Many of their stories and experiences were things that I had no prior experience with and it created a rich experience at the dinner table.

This activity related to our class by bringing people together to ask questions about society and the things we see every day.  We talked about how can we live well with the neighbor who knocks over our tomato plant (They did buy Natalie a bag of tomatoes form Meijer after.) and yells at us for parking in their spot.  We also looked at issues like running for office and pondered how we can solve the problems facing our community and help those who want to lead us with how to face those issues.  We also looked at how we can help in our community, and not say to hell with good intentions but create something meaningful.  In all, I enjoyed the Kentucky Kitchen Table and the conversation that came with it.

KKT Photo

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