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.