Left to Right: Me, Brandon, Dad, Mom, Ian, Braxton, Chapel, Sharon, Manyoo, Tricia
I had my Kentucky Kitchen Table at a good family friend’s house here in Bowling Green. The hostess, Tricia, is no stranger to friendly gatherings. She hosts small group bible studies occasionally throughout the year with potluck style dinners, so we’ve been unintentionally practicing for this for a few years. I could not think of a warmer house to have my KKT in.
Her husband, Ian, was born in Zimbabwe. His parents were missionaries so he grew up in South Africa. He came to America to get a degree in Mechanical Engineering at WKU. He has a fun accent.
I got to know them initially through their son, Brandon (he has the same name as me). We became friends in Middle School and have stayed friends since. He’s studying Advertising.
Brandon’s younger brother Braxton was hanging around too. He’s homeschooled, but also heavily involved in community sports.
As a whole, they’re all fairly conservative and strong Christians. Tricia is a stay-at-home mom that homeschools her kids, as well as a freelance writer.
My mom and dad are pictured on the left, in between Brandon and Ian. They like coming to Tricia’s house as much as me. My dad is a retired IRS agent and conservative. He grew up in East Tennessee. Mom works as a secretary for a federal probation office. She’s a registered Democrat but mostly stays out of politics. Overall, she’s a very optimistic person.
Across from them sat Ian’s brother’s family. His brother couldn’t make it, but his brother’s wife Sharon was there with their two adopted Korean children, Chapel and Manyoo. Sharon is a stay-at-home mom and a part-time substitute teacher. She’s also fairly conservative.
I’d never met Sharon and her kids before, despite knowing Tricia’s family for five years. Sharon’s pleasant to talk to and she was always one of the first to answer the questions. Chapel’s kinda shy and Manyoo is the opposite of shy.
Dinner started off with general conversation around the table. I waited until everyone was seated and had had the chance to eat a good portion of their meal before asking the first question. As for the food itself, my dad made some of his good ol’ homemade chili, Tricia made some excellent lasagna, and Sharon brought Korean potstickers. All of it was quite excellent.
I asked the required citizenship question first. It created a lot of blank stares and “Hmmmm” responses. Granted, it’s not something we really think about on a daily basis, or much at all, so I waited patiently for an answer.
Sharon was the first to give an answer. “Freedom,” she said. Everyone quickly echoed the sentiment. Group consensus wasn’t my goal, but everyone could get behind freedom, myself included, so I segued into the next question.
I asked what advice they would give to the people running for office in our country and there sure wasn’t any hesitation in the answer to that. Ian said, “Listen to the people,” and others added on variations of this sentiment. He said people are tired of feeling underrepresented and that if the people in charge actually listened to the people that put them in charge, then the country would be much better off. I noticed a distinct lack of politicization for either side in the answers, which I thought was interesting.
I stirred the pot with the next question, asking “What social issue is closest to your heart and why?” Brandon responded immediately with “Abortion” with the rest of his family backing him up. Tricia elaborated by explaining why it was important to them, citing the Bible and their belief in the sanctity of life, beginning at conception.
Sharon gave a slightly broader answer of “Family Life.” She talked about prioritizing her family, and how many of the things wrong with modern America had to do with the degradation of family values, such as the acceptance of gay marriage and a lack of child discipline.
The mood got very serious so I decided to lighten it by asking “What do you think are the best things about our world today?” This proved to be the most decisive questions of the night, though not in a bad way.
Ian said technology was one of the best things about the world, citing how it’s improved countless lives and brings people from all over the world together. Tricia reacted with surprise and said she thought technology was one of the worst things about the world. She elaborated on how people are addicted to today’s technology and have given in to instant gratification because of it.
I personally sided with Ian, partially because I’m optimistic but also because it goes along with our class discussions of bringing everyone together. Modern technology can be a double-edged sword, but overall I think it has massively benefited society.
Sharon had a completely different answer. She spoke of nature as one of the best things in the world and how the natural beauty of the world was something worth cherishing and protecting. It was a very inspiring answer.
I followed up with “What is the thing you love most about living where you do?” Since almost everyone present grew up in a different state (or country), I expected different answers, however, there was a common consensus that “community” and “friendliness” were what defined Bowling Green. Ian said community wasn’t nearly as valued in South Africa as it is here, which surprised me.
Sharon and Tricia both spoke highly of how everyone is willing to put aside their differences and come together for a common cause during times of distress, both on a national and local level, and that that was one of the things that made the U.S. unique. It was a nice, optimistic upswing. Everyone was smiling.
They kept wanting to answer more questions, so I kept asking them, even though everyone had already eaten dessert. They were really into it.
I asked the question about having meals around the table with your family growing up, and my dad took point on that one. He told us how his dad (my grandfather) worked a rotating shift at a factory when he was growing up, and even though his hours changed, he always tried to eat with his family whenever he could.
I always like hearing new details about my dad’s life growing up. He only tells these kinds of stories with friends, and most are ones I haven’t heard before. It was one of the little things that stuck with me.
All of the others said they ate with their families growing up as well. Sharon nudged Chapel into talking by asking her directly if they have dinner as a family. She gave a shy, “Yes.”
Most everyone highly valued having dinner with the family. Tricia said growing up she didn’t even know some families didn’t eat dinner together, and that it was a sad trend that more families weren’t eating together. Ian said he did it with his family in South Africa.
We ended the night with the soul-searching question “What kind of person do you want to be?” Manyoo gave the humorously vague answer of wanting to be a “good” person. Chapel tried to copy his answer, and after a few synonyms, Sharon gave up on trying to get a different answer out of her.
Interestingly, the adults answered the question not on who they want to be, but how they want to be remembered. At least, that was the common theme of their answers.
Ian wanted to be remembered as a kind, generous person, and after some prompting, he told us a story demonstrating these virtues. Several years ago during Thanksgiving, Ian was driving home to his family when he saw a car broke down on the side of the road with a black man standing next to it. He pulled over to offer his assistance, and the man said his car had a flat tire.
Ian called several different tire sellers to try to find the tire the guy needed, but it was an unusual brand of tire and the only place that had them was the Walmart in Franklin, KY. So, being the ultimate nice guy, Ian drove the man down to Franklin and waited with him until the auto center opened. Once the man bought his tire, Ian drove him back to his car.
It was really late by this time as the whole ordeal took about six hours. The man thanked Ian profusely and they went their separate ways. It was a rather heartwarming tale.
My mom said she wanted to be remembered as a do-gooder, even though doing good sometimes resulted in her getting taken advantage of by others. My dad said something similar.
Brandon didn’t give a serious answer. I said I wanted to stay the course and continue doing what I was doing. Tricia ended it by saying she wanted to leave behind a positive legacy for others to follow.
I thanked everyone for coming and gave Tricia a hostess gift. Overall, the discussion went really well and everyone enjoyed themselves. I learned that even though we all came from diverse geographic and demographic backgrounds, we all more or less wanted the same thing: To live good lives and be good people. It sounds cliche, but hey, life’s cliche. I was reminded of the article “How We Talk Matters” as the dinner showed that civil discourse is not only possible but can also be enjoyable. I walked away with a new appreciation for simple, dinner conversation.