When I first heard about the Kentucky’s Kitchen Table assignment, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about it. I thought that it was a neat concept, but my family is very conservative, and they also do not truly take the time to truly hear what each person has to say so serious conversations can often be frustrating. I still knew I had to do it and as the time to do it came closer I stopped dreading it so much and just wanted to get the dinner part over with. I had planned my Kentucky’s Kitchen Table for spring break where my whole family, as well as another family from my hometown, Mt. Juliet TN, would be in a house together. Unfortunately, we never sat down for a meal at the house like we had planned at the beginning of the week because we were at Universal Studios from open to close almost every day, so we never had a meal altogether that wasn’t at a restaurant. Luckily, I was going to visit my friend’s family with him a week later in Union Kentucky, which is right by Cincinnati, and they offered to help me out with my project and host my Kentucky’s Kitchen Table at their house.
On the day that we were going to have dinner together, I woke up and looked out the window and saw a blanket of snow covering the ground. It was so beautiful. It had been awhile since I had seen some real snow on the ground. I love how the snow reflected the sunlight into the windows and filled the whole house with a radiating energy that would put anyone in a good mood. On the menu for dinner were buffalo chicken tacos, a recipe found on Pinterest that his mother Beverly had been wanting to try. The smell of buffalo chicken soon filled the house and it got me excited for the meal that we were going to share.
Once dinner was finished cooking we all went to the kitchen and made our plates and claimed our spot around the table. As I sat down I thought about one of the requirements for the Kentucky’s Kitchen Table assignment: that we were required to have a diverse group of people at our meal. I started thinking that this was not good because I am the only one sitting here with a different last name, so where is the diversity in that? But then as we started talking I would soon realize that there can be diversity even in a family unit.
Taylor is a single mom and a college nursing student that works as a waitress at Skyline Chili. Taylor’s three-year-old daughter Audrey also joined us for dinner, she didn’t say much about the topics, but she gave the dinner a certain breath of fresh air with some comedic relief. Zach is nineteen, a pre-vet student, and is gay. Emma is a high school freshman. Beverly and Jamos, the mother and father of the family, work at the VA in town. I learned my first lesson of the night from this very moment. Just because two people are from the same family, it doesn’t necessarily mean that those two people will have the same life experience. Sure, they grew up with the same parents and in the same physical home, but your life experiences are molded by the people you surround yourself with and what characteristics you possess.
The first question I asked everyone was the only required question of the night: Other than voting and paying taxes, what does it mean to be a citizen. After I asked the question, everyone just sat in silence staring at me until. I thought that the dinner was going to be like pulling out teeth to get people to answer my questions, but then Beverly asked what I meant by the question. Once I cleared up the question, Zach answered that other than paying taxes and voting you need to be active in your community and help others. When we all inquired about what he meant about that he explained that being a citizen is like being productive to your community and not allowing others to go unnoticed, and he then admitted to not really being a citizen according to his definition. He explained that he is not active in his community and does not always reach out to help other people. Everyone around the table nodded their heads and voiced their agreement to what Zach had said, but no one else really spoke up soon after. I found this answer intriguing because we all had this idea of citizenship as being active in our community, and we all would call ourselves citizens, yet none of us thought that we really were active in our community.
In order to carry that idea over, I inquired about their relationships with their neighbors. Beverly said that when the kids were young they would all play outside together and they would be friendly with their neighbors. They said it wasn’t odd to say hello and have a small conversation or ask to borrow some milk, but they would not talk about serious topics or share meals together. Zach jumped in and said that they still have one neighbor that they talk to occasionally but other than the wave as you are driving by, they don’t really talk to their neighbors. I did not find this to be especially groundbreaking. I mean, my family has experienced the same thing as all of my family grew up and no longer played outside with the neighborhood kids.
Soon after we had talked about this I asked what they thought the best thing about the world is today. Emma jumped in with how connected everyone is in my class on social media and things of that nature, and Jamos added how being that connected can also sometimes be a bad thing due to bullies and the ongoing competition to be that much better and to get one more like or follower than your enemy. Beverly also said that she believes that how understanding everyone one is today. Everyone agreed with this statement and added that people are not judged as much for personal life choices made. I found this, along with the previous discussion, very interesting. That we as a society have become more open-minded and understanding of the people we live around, yet somehow, we have become less interactive with each other. I tried to ask what everyone thought about that and no one had an answer, but they understood what I was talking about. I found this to be one of the most interesting moments in our meal as we began to really think about how we, as a society, have become so kind with one another, yet we don’t talk as much in person. I think that this can connect with the empathy readings that describe how today’s generation is not fit to make moral decisions and we just do “what feels right.” We do not want to be subjected to judgment from any of our peers, so in turn, we don’t feel as if we should subject other to the same type of judgment we fear ourselves. Along with this, I think that we do not talk in person as much because it is just more convenient for us, in this fast-paced world, for us to connect with friends online. Upon further thinking I was able to conclude that people being more understanding and people not communicating as often in person are correlated, meaning they happen at the same time, but are not causal.
Moving forward in the conversation we all talked about politicians and some of the suggestions that we all had for people running for office. Beverly started with the politicians really listening to the people and doing things that benefit everyone and not just their campaign or their well-being in the political world. Zach also reiterated her claim by saying that there are too many politicians that would just do and say whatever they have to in order to be elected or to not lose support from the general public. I think that this would benefit the world greatly because even though the government and policies won’t fix all of the world’s problems, they can be a crucial stepping stone to get the public involved in these types of situations.
In closing, despite my initial reservations about the Kentucky’s Kitchen Table project, I thoroughly enjoyed what I was able to glean from the conversation I had with their family. Such as that diversity exists in the typical family unit, as well as the realization that we are becoming more understanding in a less in-person-connected world. I think that the world will change as soon as people start having more discussions like this because people can learn that there are other people that share their opinion with them. So, they can initiate change in their communities because all it takes is a small change to lead to something more.