My dinner went a little differently than a typical Kentucky Kitchen Table due to some difficulties in making plans and plans being cancelled so I used my families Thanksgiving dinner for my conversation. Because my mom’s side of the family is so large, we aren’t able to all fit around one table so throughout our Thanksgiving meal I table hopped to ask everyone for their thoughts on some of the discussion questions. The meal took place at my house in the fairly small town of Crestwood, KY which is about 20 minutes from downtown Louisville, however, those in attendance were not all from our town. Kent, my mom’s brother, and Pru, Kent’s wife, are also from Crestwood but they live in a more remote, quiet part of town than we do. Kent was raised in Louisville and is now a pipe fitter and a preacher at his and Pru’s small church. Pru was a rock and roll disk jockey for nearly 30 years till she retired. She now works in the Papa John’s international headquarters located in Louisville in marketing. They are married with one son named Kenny who was also at the dinner. Kenny is currently living in Florence, KY near Cincinnati working as a photographer at a studio. Laura, my mom’s sister, is from Richmond, KY along with her two children Sue and Jay, and Sue’s husband Anthony and their kids Molly and Brock who were also all in attendance. Laura is now retired and spends most her time with her grandkids. Sue is an elementary school teacher, Anthony is a police officer and apart of the armed forces, and Jay is an auto mechanic. My mom’s sister Lisa was also there. She lives in Louisville and works with an insurance company. She shares a house with my Grandma Jean, who was also at dinner, to help her in her old age. My grandma never had a job since her and my grandpa, who has passed away, had 5 children which was a lot to take care of. My mom, dad, and sister were also there. My mom Stacy is flight attendant for Delta and has been flying with them for over 30 years. My dad John works with Humana in their offices in downtown Louisville in the IT department. My parents have been happily married for 29 years now. My sister Rachel is four years older than I am and is going to school at the University of Louisville for English.
To start the conversation with everyone I got around to talking with, I would ask the required question; “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following the laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Almost everyone had the same initial response that was something along the lines of ‘Wow that’s a though question!’ However, after a little goading, I would get an answer out of them and most enjoyed talking about it. I talked to Kent, Kenny, and John all together and Kent and John were thinking similarly in that citizenship meant being apart of a community and helping your neighbors. In addition, they brought up the other benefits we have such as our many freedoms and our ability to run for office, which was a sentiment also shared by Pru. Kenny agreed with those things, but pulled from different life experiences as he is about 30 years younger. To Kenny it meant that so long as he was paying his taxes and following the laws, he had as much value as a person and the ability to use his life however he so wanted to. I found these responses very interesting because of the generational difference and their different life experiences. Neither Kent or John had the perfect life, but they both grew up as your typical boy. They enjoyed playing and watching sports and had good friendships in high school and college. Kenny on the other hand, has been through some tough times. In high school he started having homosexual feelings and he didn’t know what do because he wasn’t sure how his parents would respond as his dad was a preacher. One thing led to another and instead of telling his parents this, he turned to drugs and alcohol and by college, was doing these things quite regularly. He finally got the help he needed and over the last several years has been figuring out who he is as a person, but these experiences have made him grateful for the freedoms he has because he said in other countries he may have been persecuted for living this lifestyle. Instead he’s be able to take his time figuring out who he is and what he wants to do which is what he felt like citizenship meant to him. Sue and Anthony said that to them, citizenship was about being a part of something bigger themselves and being able to come together in times of need, which they really understand because of Anthony’s time in the service. Rachel felt that citizenship was apart of our identity. It is something that has been apart of shaping many different parts of us from obvious ways such as our language and the way we dress to how we view the world and our morals and values. Pru also talked about citizenship shaping how we view the world some. She told us about how working in the international headquarters she was led to many people from other countries, as well as when she was a disk jockey she would work with many artists who were not from America. In these interactions, she learned that so many of them view our citizenship in much higher regard than we do and that they would even know the privileges we have better than we do. This made her realize how many things we take for granted because we live in this generally calm, peaceful place where we don’t feel like we have to worry about these privileges being taken from us because we have citizenship.
From there, I would normally look at the list of questions and ask them one or two more depending on where our conversation about the first question had gone. For example, with John and Kent since we had been talking about benefits of being a citizen, I asked what they thought the best thing about the world was right now which they answered with things such as the availability of information, medicine, and healthcare. It was interesting though because they struggled with answering this question and kept going back to negative things and I would have to remind them I asked about the best things in the world not the worst. It struck me that so often this is how society works and it rubs off on us personally. The news and other media outlets always focus on the bad things in the world, senators write legislation to try and keep making things better, technology companies keep coming out with new and improved products, people always try to make more and more money because what we feel like what we have is never enough. The more society does this, the more I see people in my life changing to this negative outlook on everything, myself included. This is one downfall of citizenship. We are so interconnected that we sometimes struggle to be our own person and not simply become the person society has deemed as ideal. This interconnection can also be a great thing though. When I asked Sue and Anthony what type of community they want to live in, they said a smaller one where the saying “it takes a village to raise a kid,” was reality. One where they would feel safe sending their kids outside to play and where people are helpful. This got me to thinking about my childhood and how many people I have been impacted by, and all the little parts of people that I have adopted as a part of me that have shaped me to be the person I am today. Even now, I realized, I am still growing and changing and being affected by the people who now fill my life.
Overall, this experience was really awesome, and I got to do a lot of reflecting on my own life and learn more about my family and talk to them in way I haven’t before. The central idea of our class I can best relate my personal Kentucky Kitchen Table to is how we can have more say over our lives. I feel like for everyone that I talked to, the questions I asked required a lot of reflection which is a great way to have more say over your life. When you are able to recognize the good things in your life, you can become more grateful and a more joyful person and have a more positive outlook on life. When you are able to recognize the bag things in your life, you can start working on either fixing those bad things or removing them from your life. One reading this related to is the article by Jennifer Roberts, “The Power of Patience: Teaching Students the Value of Deceleration and Immersive Attention.” Reflection requires a lot of patience. It is not always the most fun thing to sit there and look back at our lives when we feel like there are so many things we need to be doing or could be doing to keep moving forward. However, we have to keep in mind that history contains many great lessons that we can learn from to move forward. So as Roberts discussed, by taking time to sit and observe something for a long period of time, the more you will learn and see in that thing. Even during my Kentucky Kitchen Table, the longer I would talk to someone and pry answers out of them, the deeper and more reflective they were able to get.