Lindsey’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

img_2649My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place on October 13th in Walton, Kentucky. We gathered around the dining room table and my aunt Lyn and uncle Bob’s as we do 2 or 3 times a month. I was joined by my uncle Keith (a globe-trotting bachelor in his mid 40s who never really bothered to grow up), my mother (a school librarian who always tries to keep the peace on every issue), my aunt Lyn (an opinionated stay at home grandmother), my cousin Emily (a bold and outspoken VA caseworker), my uncle Bob (a soft spoken airport electrician), my cousin Rachel (a former elementary school teacher turned stay at home mom of two children under 4), my father (who has held various positions in the education system for over 20 years, most recently as an assistant superintendent), and Rachel’s husband Jamie (a veterinarian). I chose Jamie to be the participant who I do not know very well. Even though he’s been in a relationship with my cousin for a number a years, I cannot tell you much about him other than the fact that he is a veterinarian who works a lot and that he falls asleep on the couch after almost every family meal. Rachel and Jamie’s kids, Henry (4) and Natalie (2), were also occupying the room with fits of laughter from The Muppet Babies on the television. While culturally this group appears to be fairly similar, their personalities, opinions, and ways of handling various situations is quite diverse.

 

I started our conversation off by asking the required question about what citizenship means to everyone. No one really knew how to begin, but after a few seconds of silence my mother suggested being a good neighbor. Everyone seemed to agree and my aunt Lyn added making sure that the next generation be better off. Even though we has only barely answered one question, my Dad, Jamie, and Keith all checked out and began to talk about sports. They would each occasionally provide input on the following topics, but not very much. We then began to discuss what we each perceived as the best things about our world today. Again, those who were still paying attention to the conversation grew quiet for a second. As the sound of her 4 year old grandson’s laughter filled the room, Lyn said “grandchildren” as she glanced at the attentive little boy in front of the TV. My mother suggested neighbors again. Cousin Emily says how much more politically active people are becoming. I then asked what kind of community everyone would ideally like to live in. Everyone quickly agreed to somewhere safe and where you are friendly with your neighbors. I then asked what everyone likes about where they live now. My mother and Lyn, who were next door neighbors until a few months ago, both said they liked being slightly secluded yet still close to neighbors. Cousin Rachel spoke of how much she like being able to let her young children play outside without ever really worrying about their safety. Emily, who has been living in Louisville for the past 2 year, raved about the Louisville food scene. Keith joined the conversation for a moment and went on about the Cincinnati night-life. He then noted how different each person’s answer was. We then discussed how each person thinks their job relates to their role as a citizen. Rachel, Lyn, and my mother all agreed that they are raising the next generation and see nothing else that could possibly help to better society. Bob, who has been mostly quiet up until this point, briefly mentioned how critical his job at the airport would be in the case of a terrorist attack. We could all tell this was not a topic he really wanted to think much about, so none of us pressured him to elaborate. Emily, however, explained in depth her duties at the VA. She shared how, when she first started her job, she was told that it was her duty to take as much money from the government as possible and put it in the hands of service veterans. We then moved on to talk about the obligations we might have to other people in our country. My mother, who always believes in being the bigger person, said we must always be nice to others no matter what. Emily agreed somewhat agreed to this, then added if someone cannot help themselves, she does not feel that they deserve her help. I found this statement extremely interesting, especially considered how to just spoke of the duties at work. I then asked what advice each person would give to people running for office in our country. Bob’s answer was quick and to the point: don’t lie and stay away from social media. This sparked a giant debate about the usefulness of social media that, to be completely honest, I did not retain much from because everyone was talking all at once. I instead chose to move on to the new topic. I regathered the attention of the table, including those who had been discussing sports the whole time. I asked if anyone had ever had a conversation with someone from a really different background than their own and braced myself for the answers. Keith, who we joke is never in the country because he spends so much time traveling world, simply said “Well I travel so yeah” and provided no further explanation. Lyn told a winding tale of how she never spoke to a black person until she was an adult and started working in downtown Cincinnati. She explained the stereotypes around which she was raised and how still now in her middle age she sometimes finds herself believing them. The most shocking statement of the night occured next. Jamie, who had contributed nothing so far, said “I stay as white as possible” then followed that with “Oh, but I’m not racist”. His wife, my cousin Rachel, then accused him of being racist. They went back and forth about this for several minutes while I tried to wrap my head around what just happened. It was clear before that I did not know much about Jamie, but this statement still caught me by surprise. Instead of further opening that can of worms, I asked everyone which social issue they consider closest to their heart. At this time, the men chose to return to their sports conversation. Those still participating in our discussion took several minutes to ponder this one. Emily eventually responded with the access to healthier foods across various communities. My mother and Lyn again went back to raising the next generation right. I did not entirely agree that that is a social issue, but I let them speak their thoughts.

 

My family has never been one to talk about any of this stuff, so I was very hesitant going into the meal. I tried to dig thoughtful answers out of everyone, but was not very successful because I did not want to offend anyone. However, I do still feel like I learned quite a bit. I certainly learned learned a little more about Jamie. I continued to think about what he said after dinner as I sat in the floor and played with his two young children. How will this affect them? Will they grow up to see things like their father?  From observing Keith on a different level, I learned that just because someone has been to every corner of the world, it does not mean they are “cultured”. He can show me thousands of pictures he has taken from foreign lands, but he could never tell me about the problems and beliefs of those places. I also learned that the VA, for a lack of a better term, is awesome. I always knew that Emily worked for them, but never really knew just what she was doing. Hearing her talk about her job reminded me of one of our central questions for this course. Emily is helping others (the veterans) have more control over their lives. She helps them obtain the proper funding to keep them housed and healthy. It also reminded me of Derrick Jensen’s message in “Forget Shorter Showers”. He urges the reader to confront systems of injustice (those in power) and that is exactly what Emily is doing when she, in her own words, “attempts to increase the national debt to give veterans a proper payday” I walked away from this dinner with a much deeper admiration and respect for my cousin Emily.

 

I must admit, I had been dreading this project all semester for fear that too many problematic things would be said. While that certainly did happen, I am still glad I was able to have these conversations with my family. I learned many new things from observing what they said and how they said it. The topics discussed and shared gave me a new insight on the experiences and thinkings of my closest family members.

 

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Turner’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Turner

My Kentucky Kitchen Table Project took place in my hometown, Versailles, Kentucky, on September 20. We happily gathered around the kitchen table in my family home, even adding chairs to make room for more people and more opinions! Those present each contributed to the conversation, making for a good night.

There were eight people there, myself and all of my family, and four others. My mother, Keli, is a democrat that works for the state with finding housing for various homeless populations. My father, Jeremy, is a republican assistant principal for the public-school system in Woodford County and my sister, Morgan, is a high schooler in this same school system. The other non-family members there were Hunter, a republican in college in Indiana and Tasha, the local middle and high school cheer coach who knows absolutely everyone; she is also very, very conservative. Tasha’s ten-year-old daughter, Chloe, also came and with her came a surprise visitor, her friend, Reagan.

This may seem like an odd mix of people; however, I strove to diversify the people in the conversation because I wanted to know the difference of opinions that came with different upbringings and political ideologies. I also wanted to have a difference of ages. I have always thought that children tell things simply, like they see it, and that was the idea I had when I invited an elementary aged child. This particular child is very outspoken about the way that she feels and very smart when it comes to national happenings. Because of these things, I expected to have a very interesting conversation and my expectations were satisfied.

We opened with casual conversation to ease nerves, some were very nervous about being a part of this project but soon got over it. We then moved on to the first, required question; “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship meant to you?” Jeremy started the conversation off by introducing the idea that in order to be a good citizen one must pull their own weight to the best of their ability. Several others also seconded that opinion, at which point Chloe asserted that she did not understand what that meant but that she did not understand why people could not just get a job. This launched an in-depth discussion about what “pulling your own weight” means exactly. This was interesting because it really relates to political debates today, concerning healthcare, government assistance, and many other things; at what point should we, the government, stop helping others and expect them to help themselves. Keli, who works with people not in the position to help themselves, also added some interesting thoughts. She explained that some people are not able to get their own jobs, whether it be due to disability or never learning the work ethic required to have one.

This particular part of the conversation interested me because of the social issue project that I have been working on in this class. I have been researching and writing about the foster care system and how youth aging out are virtually unequipped to move into the world, get jobs, and live on their own. Many times, these people are not able to get jobs or support themselves which is the point Keli was trying to make. It is not necessarily their fault, but the fault of those around them, their biological parents and the system, for not teaching them the work ethic they must have to pull their own weight. Applying what I have learned throughout this class to the idea that good citizens must pull their own weight, helped me realize that it is not always possible, which is not something that I have always thought.

Along this same vein, we discussed what being a citizen means to us which started a conversation about the need to regulate the resources the country does have available to those in need. Some felt that these are often abused and need more regulations in order to gain assistance, such as drug tests. Keli said that she did agree that there needed to be more regulations due to the fact that people often stay on government assistance simply because it helps more than going out and getting a job that pays minimum wage.

We also discussed the best things in our world today. I was thankful that we can still live in a world where we can know our neighbors and have relationships with them. Keli was thankful that there are still people in this world that care for others and are charitable and giving. Most of the other responses ran along this same vein. This reminded me of the very first week’s reading, “Love Thy Neighbor.” This reading explored neighbors turning on each other and killing based on things that do not matter. Applying this reading made me thankful that we live in a country where this is not a problem. We live in a world where we love and help each other regardless of race or religion, and this helps keep us all sane and, for the most part, good.

Finally, we discussed how religion has shaped our worldview and view on citizenship. Morgan and most people felt that going to church and being a Christian has made them better citizens. She said that you see what is right and how to treat people and that helps you to do it. Reagan and Chloe felt that what they learned at church made them better at school and taught them to treat their classmates better because the Bible teaches to treat others how you would like to be treated which is a good practice to follow as a citizen. God says to feed the hungry and help the widows and this is what we should do as citizens, as much as possible. Adding religion to the equation really changed a lot of the opinions of the table to an extent; adding it helped people to see that we should help people and that caring for others is part of being a great citizen. It was a great finishing question because it summed up the whole activity and really helped all of us think in depth about why being a good citizen is important and what that means.

Overall, this conversation helped me gain a lot of insight into people’s minds and what they think about citizenship and America as a whole. Hearing republicans and democrats agree gave me a lot of hope for the country and the political gridlock that we see so often today. The overall thought seemed to be that being a good citizen means helping people that need it to a certain extent. This idea can easily be affected by upbringing, political ideologies, and spiritual identity.

The Kentucky Kitchen Table project made me think a lot about the pieces that we have read throughout the Citizen and Self course, but most specifically the piece, “How We Talk Matters.” This talks about how we can benefit from taking time to listen and talk with people, which is what we did during dinner. As we talked, we began to see what others see and at one-point Hunter even said, “Keli makes me feel bad about some of the things I say.” This really speaks to the importance of talking about opinions. Sometimes just listening is all it takes to see what other people see. Talking truly is the way to fixing many of the issues of America; however, we often do not take the time to talk, and when we do, we do not listen. Having the simple conversation, we had at the dinner table helped Hunter and Jeremy and some others at least see why it could be considered a citizen’s duty to help other Americans and helped Keli see why they believed every citizen should pull their own weight.

Through this assignment I personally decided that it is my duty as a citizen to keep having these conversations, and to instigate them whenever I can. I believe that doing this can help us to live better together. Talking about opinions and ideas can help people to agree better and compromise. It is the good citizen’s job to ensure that this keeps happening and we keep talking. The minute we stop talking to those we disagree with is the minute that our country can no longer get things accomplished and protect our citizens. One of the ways to solve wicked problems is to talk about them and find ways we can compromise for the better of the people. Talking is the best way to solving problems together and although it was just a small group, in a small setting, it was a step in the right direction. Sometimes all it takes is a small group of “little” people to make a large difference. Talking is always a step in the right direction which is why as a citizen it is my duty to make sure we are all talking.

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Picture taken during dessert time! From left to right: Keli, Morgan, Reagan, and Chloe

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From left to right: Chloe, Jeremy, Tasha, and Hunter

 

 

 

 

Kentucky Kitchen Table: Birthday Edition

By Emma
For my Kentucky Kitchen Table project, I decided to host a post birthday dinner on October 12th in my hometown Union, Kentucky. It was a super great, rather than a potluck (since most of the people there live in dorms) we cooked the meal together which was a great way to get the conversation going. We talked over chorizo rice, taco meat, and trying to peel avocados. I invited my two friends Toney and Morgan and their two roommates who I didn’t know very well, Jordyn and Sarah. Then my family joined the meal a little later because they got home late and seemed pretty excited to chow down on some homemade Mexican. My family consists of my younger brother Carter, my mom Allison, and my dad Jason. To begin we sat around my kitchen table and had some casual conversation to get to know Sarah and Jordyn better. I learned that both Sarah and Jordyn grew up around the same area that Toney, Morgan, my brother, and I grew up in. We talked about what their lives were like at home growing up. Morgan’s parents worked alternate shifts at Fed Ex, so they weren’t together at home very often and kitchen table dinners were saved for the major holidays, if that worked out with their schedules. Toney spent a lot of her time with babysitters growing up because her mom was often away on business and she doesn’t see her dad, so their dinners weren’t around the kitchen table often. Jordyn spent time at both of her parents houses so she would have dinner with them, but as she got older and busier it was harder and harder to keep up with, so they eventually stopped. Sarah’s family dinners were very similar to mine, we would get home from school, do homework, have dinner with our family at the kitchen table, and then would play. That is, until we got older and busier and kitchen table dinners weren’t a priority. The same goes for my little brother. Finally, my parents told us a bit about their upbringing. My mom was raised on a farm where they had hogs and tobacco and my grandpa was a truck driver because of that she didn’t see him very often. My dad on the other hand grew up in a military family. He moved a few times throughout his childhood until settling in relatively poor part of northern Kentucky and his parents worked a lot to support them. Our homelives were very different growing up which was really interesting to see how each of us perceived a family dinner around a kitchen table. One big thing we touched on was how valuable that time is and truly special it is to really get to bond over good food and conversation.
When I asked the main question of the night, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” I received different answers, as the discussion moved on the ideas sort of merged together and we began to talk about the ideal citizen. The “good” citizen we created through this discussion was involved in their community, passionate for those who need assistance, and truly cared for the safety and well being of those around them. Another thing we came across was the need for conversation between citizens, not just to be cordial, but conversation that can lead to development of the community that they reside in. Then we talked about our current jobs (my parents) or our jobs that we want (everyone else at the table who was a student) and how our jobs to relate as roles of a citizen. Four people at the table are in health care or want to be in health care talked about how their job is to ensure the wellness of the people in our community, that it is their job as a citizen to have a “good head and a good heart”, as Morgan said, for the people in the community to help keep them happy and healthy which was really interesting and impactful. Jordyn wants to go into architecture and interior design, she felt that her job was to provide safe and beautiful architecture and decoration to the community to create a special feel to the place in which other citizens live and work. Honestly, it was really exciting to see what everyone wanted to do and how they truly want to help out their community. The third question that we discussed that night was asking what kind of person the people at the table wanted to be. We heard the obvious answers that we assume everyone wants us to be such as nice or giving. The biggest trait that we talked about was being genuine. To be the type of person who is real in whatever situation they’re placed in, to be honest and trusted. There are so many good traits that go along with that word and I feel that it can really encompass the traits of a good citizen or person. No selfish characteristics were said like I had expected. I was waiting to hear, rich or powerful or influential but I generally heard things that were for the betterment of those around us. These questions were a really great way to get to hear everyone’s thoughts and beliefs and I absolutely loved getting to absorb and consider their them.
Overall, I loved this project. I enjoyed getting to sit at the kitchen table I grew up around and have genuine conversation about real things. As the time passed the conversation drifted to the most random of topics, some were serious, and some were so funny I had tears in my eyes. That’s something I miss about being at home. But, through these conversations I learned that the world isn’t as dark as it is portrayed in the media. Most people want to be good, they want to help others, and they want to make a positive impact on their community. I also learned that there is a general desire to understand those around us, during dinner we didn’t just sit there and talk on and on or listen to one person do so. We interacted, asked questions, and sometimes debated statements just to better understand their perspective. One of my favorite questions was about the issue closest to everyone’s heart. What was interesting to see was that all of them whether they were education, the wage gap, international relations, mental health awareness, they were centered around everyone being treated equally. This was really eye opening because it showed that everyone wanted everyone in our society to have a chance to be themselves or to have the opportunity that someone else had no matter their circumstances. Mostly, I learned to listen more than talk because you get to see what really matters to everyone and how they perceive the world. Once you gain that understanding you have the opportunity to make change and answer the three central questions of the class.
This totally relates to our class because we talked about right and wrong, values, and what it means to be a good and proactive citizen. It really reminded me of our reading How We Talk Matters because what we say and how we say it really does impact how we view people and how we view ourselves. Good communication indeed transforms people and can transform the society we are living in. So, how can we live better together? Maybe it’s by sitting around a dinner table and talking. Maybe it’s just better conversation, better communication. We can live better together by understanding those that live around us, so we can make it better for everyone else, not just ourselves.

 

A Kentucky Kitchen Table…in Tennessee

By Kallyn

In my family, eating together at a table in the comfort of our home with homemade food is a norm. Almost all our larger family gatherings (birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) are potluck style and every household is responsible for bringing some sort of dish. This assignment felt just like any other large family gathering, just with a few extra guests and a required question. Everybody met at my dining room table at my house on October 12th, 2018 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

I must confess that due to the celebration at hand there were more than 10 people in the house of this table but less than 10 sat at the table that were actively participating in my project. The participating members are pictured below. The older man closest to the front is my grandfather, Rich. He’s 82 years old but has a young heart. My grandfather is one of the smartest and most hardworking people I know even in his old age. Then on his left is my grandmother, Frankie. She’s big on traditions and she loves her family fiercely. This dinner also doubled as a celebration of her 81st birthday, making her the longest person to live on either side of her family. Both my grandparents were born into poor families and were very poor for most of my mom and aunts’ childhoods. My grandfather worked as a mining engineer and worked diligently to earn the respect of his coworkers. My mom has told me many times how hard of a worker and how well respected my grandfather was when he was working at the mine in Carthage, Tennessee. Through frugal living and hard work, my grandparents made a fortune for themselves and they have been able to live beyond comfortably, travel the world, and spoil their daughters in their adulthood and grandchildren from their birth.

My aunt, Darise, is the oldest daughter on my mom’s side of the family. She’s a teacher at a local middle school and probably the most liberal individual in my family. Then there is my dad, Joel, who knows more about sports than ESPN. He played football at Vanderbilt University and has instilled a love for football in his children. He works as a salesman selling some sort of medical test. He was born and raised in a speck of a small town in rural Ohio but moved to Nashville for college where he met my mom who is the next woman in the picture. My mom, Amy, will, by the time I have posted this, have run her fifth half marathon. Both of my parents love the Lord and raised me to do the same. They are passionate about having their children know the history of this country as well as current events.

My aunt, Michelle, has two kids of her own who I am very close too. Her son and my cousin, Ben, is currently working as an English teacher to children in China. He Facetimed us during the meal and we all got to hear about a few funny stories he had so far. Ben confessed that although he doesn’t regret coming to China, he doesn’t enjoy it as much as he thought he would. According to him, the food isn’t that great and the people are very rude. He said that he has more of an appreciation for America and for his family. He doesn’t come home until August 2019 so he still has lots of time left in China. This will be our families first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter without our Benjamin.

The last two people at the table, and dare I say the most important for the sake of this assignment, are friends of my grandparents that they made when they lived in a retirement community called Fairfield Glade in Crossville, Tennessee. My grandparents lived out there with them for 11 years. I have very fond childhood memories of “the Glade” as a lot of our family gathering used to take place around my grandparent’s dining room table instead of my own. The woman’s name is Pat and her husband’s name is Jerry. What I learned about Jerry was that he not only graduated from West Point but did so without any help from his parents. His mom had in her mind that he was going be a minister and had no idea that he had even applied but Jerry defied her by going to West Point.I didn’t get to learn much about his wife, Pat, other than she lived in Detroit for a while and loves the NFL team, the Detroit Lions.

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I kicked off the conversation with the key question about citizenship. Michelle was the first to answer. For her, citizenship means being proud to be an American. She looks at living in America as a privilege but also a responsibility. My other aunt, Darise, expanded on that idea and said that she felt that as Americans we don’t just owe citizenship to one another but to other countries. She stressed that we need to prove that although sometimes flawed, America is still one of the best countries in the world to live in. My grandma continued saying America is meant to be a beacon of light to other countries and talked about how she’s been proud to be an American her whole life. My dad, who just came back from a trip to Washington D.C. with my little brother, said that he felt citizenship is the right to assemble and protest peacefully without fear of the consequences. Citizenship to my grandfather meant leaving the world better than you found it. Lastly, Jerry added that Americans have been given the gift of freedom through citizenship and that living here is a privilege. This privilege comes with a price as we need to give back to our country as it has given to us.

During the conversation, my cousin Josh passed through the room and although he was not technically a Kentucky Kitchen Table participant because he did not eat at the table my other participants absolutely insisted on knowing his definition of citizenship. He responded with a quick and simple definition of just where you were born and live. That’s all he thought of because he explained that I hadn’t mentioned America at all but I had just said simply “citizenship”. Before I continue, I think I should point out the diversity in age at my table. Josh is only just now in his 30s. Besides me, my international guest, Ben, is the youngest at 23. My dad, my mom, and both of my aunts are in their 50s and 60s. My grandparents are in their early 80s and their friends are in their mid 70s. Because of the stout age difference between most of the table and Josh, one might jump to the conclusion that Josh’s age was revealed in his response. I don’t know if that’s a fair assumption as I had an answer similar to the more complex and patriotic ones that everyone else was discussing. However, Josh did serve as a reminder of the importance of understanding that everybody may not feel as passionately about citizenship or process that it is more than paying taxes, voting and following the law.  Josh stresses the importance of making Americans aware of how blessed they are and informing them what being a citizen encompasses.

After the citizenship question, I decided just to let the conversation flow naturally. We started talking about David Price, the current pitcher of the major league baseball team, the Boston Red Sox. Darise taught David when he was in middle school and Josh played on the same baseball team as him when they were 10. Darise talked about not only what a stellar student David was but how he was very kind. David has not forgotten about Murfreesboro and has done a lot of good things for the community. His most recent and biggest project, a special baseball field and playground for children with physical disabilities. We started talking about how there are people in this world like David, who remain good people despite the temptation to be corrupted by money and fame. They remain their kind selves and the money and popularity only helps them be able to expand their kindness and generosity further. But, there are also people in this world who are corrupted by money and fame. Although these people have the capability to help make the world a better place, they don’t seize their opportunity as they should.

At some point later in the evening, I learned that Pat and Jerry spent time living in Venezuela. This got the group talking about the cultures and differences from other countries to the United States. My whole family has done quite a bit of travel for vacations, work and as I mentioned early I have a cousin currently living in China and another living with her husband on a U.S. naval base in Spain. These are just a few of many international excursions my family and our guests have been on. We talked briefly about the tragedy of natural disasters in places such as Venezuela and Haiti. Though natural disasters have had devastating effects in America ( Hurricane Michael, wildfires in California, Hurricane Harvey etc.) countries like Haiti don’t have the economic or political stability to help people that need it. Haiti must depend almost entirely on individuals or other countries, like the U.S. to step in and help.

Overall, what I think I learned is that even though America has its flaws, it is a gift to live in the United States. This group is well-traveled and thus I feel safe concluding that the United States offers its citizens an opportunity for a wonderful, blessed life. In class, we toyed with the idea of whether Americans should use this opportunity to give back in the form of mission trips when we discussed “To Hell with Good Intentions”. The author argued that Americans should stick to tourism because when we try to help we do more harm than good. However, I think my table and I have concluded that in the terms of one of the key questions we deal with in Honors 251 that Americans can help others only have more say over their lives by representing America well. U.S. citizens can also improve the quality of other lives by donating their time, talent and treasure in helping their neighbors outside the United States. Just as people hope that athletes use their money and fame to make a difference, Americans, who have the resources and power to help people both domestically like David Price and abroad should do so.

I also learned is how lucky I am that I have a family that has sit-down, homemade meals often. I think the fast-paced, workaholic trend in America today pushes people away from both home-cooked meals and taking the time to fellowship with one another during meals. It occurred to me that this project may be one of a few times that some of my classmates have had dinner in this style. The community that one experiences from sharing a meal with other people is irreplaceable. And if nothing else, this project reminded me to be thankful for the country I live in and the family I’ve been given. Time is precious and these family dinners are going to end up being some of my most cherished family memories.

P.S. Here’s a picture of my grandma with her birthday cake and candles.

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Sean’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Sean

On Friday October the 12th I did my Kentucky kitchen table project in Crestwood, Kentucky, which is outside of Louisville, Kentucky. I did this in my childhood home. Including myself there was a total of seven of us, all were my parents’ friends that they have known from church. These people were different ages and did different things in life, so they had all different experiences. Even though I was a little nervous for the experience and the discussion, I was pleasantly surprised by everyone’s answer and had a great time discussing with all that participated.

The first person at the dinner is Cindy. A 52-year-old white female mother of 3 a widow in her second marriage, she has  BA in English, she has education degree and a Master of Arts and teaching. She is currently a sales clerk and an invitation maker. She is an artist and a truly nice person. She is religious and goes to church on a regular basis.

Andrew, who is the significant other of Cindy, a 51-year-old white male, recently married, he has a degree in business in technology from the University of Kentucky and a bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky University in business and behavioral science. He is a luthier, so that means he repairs string instruments he’s in a blues and jazz band and he plays guitar. While he was religious when he was growing up he does not currently go to church anymore.

Mark, a 56-year-old white male who is an engineer, with a master’s degree and MBA who went to the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. Mark is a very creative man who has a wood shop in his basement, and he helped me once create a case for my grandfather’s American flag from when he was buried, so he is a very helpful man and very kind. And like Andrew he is musically inclined and plays music regularly for church. He currently works in the health care service. He has always been a Christian person and goes to church regularly.

Laura, a 54-year-old white female, who is a mother of four. She is a registered nurse with a BSN from Vanderbilt University. She is a very nice person who is the wife of Mark, and like Mark she is also religious and goes to church regularly as well.

Terry, my father, a 53-year-old white male who works in health care for kindred health care. He got a communications degree from Vanderbilt University, and a sports management degree from The Ohio State University. He grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, which when he was growing up wasn’t a very big place at least compared to now. And he grew up in a religious household and continues to stay very religious to this day going to Middletown Christian Church.

Carrie, my mother and wife of terry, a 56-year-old white female, who is a retired fourth grade elementary school teacher of 33 years. She received a teaching degree from the University of Wisconsin at River falls and a master’s degree in education from the University of Louisville. She also grew up very Religious In Hudson, Wisconsin and still continues to go to church also at Middletown Christian Church.

And then there’s me, Sean, a freshman at Western Kentucky, I too grew up religiously and still go to church.

The first thing that I asked to my group of people was the required question, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” I got mostly the same answer from everybody, that citizenship is really just always about helping your fellow man and respecting each and everybody that is around you in everyday life. This could be someone you know extremely well like your best friend or this could be someone who you’ve never even met before like someone who needs help taking groceries to their car at the store. We talked about being a good citizen who contributes to their society is just someone who makes the society they live in better. This goes along well with one our three essential questions, “How can people live better (or, at the least, less badly) together?” Because we discussed that a good citizen really does try to just live together better with everyone, not just the people they know and like. These answers could all be a result of the religion of the people who came to my dinner. Everyone who came was a Christian in one way or another, and one of the key values of Christianity is helping people, so this definitely influenced them to want to help others a citizen.

We talked about a lot of different questions from the list in the handout which led to other questions, but one of the first questions I asked as the leader of the discussion was, “Does your religious or spiritual identity relate to how you think we should treat other people? Does it relate to how you see yourself as a citizen?” Like I talked about before they talked a lot about how going to church and growing up in Christian household, influenced the way they treat other people and that it has had such an impact in all of their lives. They all talked about how to love to help people, because it’s the way they are now. But sometimes it really makes them guilty that they have all this stuff and a lot of people don’t really have anything. So, I told them about what we talked about in class. That a lot of times we feel guilty about people having a lot less than us and being less fortunate. While it’s okay to feel bad for those people, because that’s just basic human empathy, you shouldn’t feel guilty but instead thankful that you have all that you do. Because you shouldn’t feel guilty for working hard and being rewarded for that hard work.

This relates to the reading by Ivan Illich’s speech, “To Hell With Good Intentions.” In this reading he talks all about how sometimes we feel so guilt ridden about the less fortunate that we try to go to those places with the less fortunate and help them out, but in the process,  we sometime impose ourselves too much on the cultures we are trying to help and end up doing more harm than good. So, our religion can be a good thing and help us know the right thing to do, other times it can cause us to do stupid and irresponsible things too.

We also discussed the questions, “How do you think your job relates to your role as a citizen?  Do you see your job as serving a greater purpose?” They all had something to say for this. Both Mark and my dad, Terry, work for health care companies. While Mark works for a nonprofit, Norton Healthcare, and Terry works for a for-profit healthcare company, they both say that they feel like they really help people live better lives because they can live healthier lives. Laura who is a Registered Nurse gave a similar answer saying that she feels she lets people live longer and better lives than they would if she wasn’t there to help them. My mom, Carrie is a retired teacher, so she felt that since she got to help mold the minds of the future and help kids learn things that they might not learn if they didn’t go to school or have her as a teacher, so she felt like she helps to create the citizens of the future and instill her good values on them. Then there’s Cindy and she helps to create specialized cards for various events which might not seem like much, but if very special because she can help people realize their dreams, and celebrate them in a good fashion, like she can help people create very cool cards if they’re getting married. This is very special because she can make people’s special moments even more special. And lastly there’s Andrew who is a luthier, which means he is a creator or repairer of stringed instruments. This may just seem likes he fixes up guitars, but it’s a lot more than that. As he explained it, he helps people to repair family heirlooms, like if they had a guitar that was passed down from generation to generation that was very special to the family then he could help restore it. By doing this he helps people keep something that is very special to them and to their family. This show we all have something to bring to the table when helping the world.

And lastly, we talked about the question, “Do you know your neighbors? Why or why not?” And we talked about how a lot of us don’t really know our neighbors all that well unless we have something in common with them, like we had kids the same age or similar jobs, etc. I just thought that this was interesting that not a lot of us know our neighbors.

What I learned from this experience overall is that we all have something to contribute to the world whether it’s something big or small, no effort that can be given to the betterment of humanity is too small. I learned that every once and awhile it’s beneficial to work together and talk about bigger issues with people, because it can help us become better citizens in our own societies.

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Left to Right, Terry, Carrie, Andrew, Cindy, Laura, Mark, and I’m (Sean) on the ground.