On November 8th 2018, I conducted my Kentucky Kitchen Table project. I chose to do this in my hometown which is a small city that consists of about two thousand people in its city’s limits located about an hour away from Bowling Green called Tompkinsville.
My dinner consisted of five people including myself. These people were Sara, Callie, Tommy and Glenna.
Tommy is my father whom has resided his entire life in Tompkinsville. He received his bachelor’s degree with a major in English from Western Kentucky University. He taught seventh grade English at Monroe County Middle School, was a principal at Gamaliel Elementary School, and now works at the Monroe County Board of Education. Tommy loves to spend time with his two sons and wife. Whether it be through raising tobacco, watching the kids play sports, or going to church, he likes to have fun in any activity that his family takes on.
Glenna is Tommy’s wife. Glenna is from Leitchfield, Kentucky and met Tommy while attending Western Kentucky University. She currently is the Family Resource Coordinator for two elementary schools and has been in this position for over fifteen years now. Like her husband, she too has been around the farm lifestyle her entire life and loves doing anything that involves spending time with her family.
Sara is a much younger and is the mother of a 4-month-old. She is a nearby neighbor who grew up in the urban area of Lexington, Kentucky and married a man from Tompkinsville. She graduated from the University of Kentucky and is currently a stay-at-home mom.
Callie is a relative of Sara who was staying at her house for the weekend. She is from Livingston, Tennessee and is still in high school. She is her senior class president and loves to go to the lake and spend time with her family and friends.
To get our meal started off, I asked the question “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” The responses were along the lines of the following:
Tommy- “I am a part that makes a community function, or part of a whole,”
Glenna- “Belonging to a community.”
Sara- “Being legally a part of something.”
Callie: “Being free in the land of America.”
From here we started to discuss how generally, people from a bigger city tend to have more liberal views on social issues. Sara has lived her entire life in a large, urban area and has much different political views than Tommy, Glenna, Callie, and me. We then moved into the conversation of Donald Trump and his tactics leading this country and even brought up our ideas on gay marriage and abortion. I believe this came up because we were also discussing our religious beliefs a tad and the two seem to be intertwined a lot in today’s society. Callie is younger than all of us and is very vocal about her political views and adores Donald Trump. Sara, on the other hand, cannot stand the presence of his name in a room.
This led me to ask another question, which was “In general, what type of person would you like to be?” Again, the answers are not exact, but somewhat along these lines:
Tommy- “An honest and thoughtful person.”
Glenna- “Kind and caring.”
Callie- “A good Christian lady.”
Callie’s answers always seemed to amuse me. She is a very flamboyant person and makes sure everyone knows her views on everything. She is a very funny person and definitely an open book.
Through the entire dinner of our conversations, there were many topics that you could see the differences among everyone. When it came to anything political related, Sara was had many different views than the rest. Even though I may hate to admit this, I noticed that myself and Callie were the only two at the table that ever looked at our phones during the dinner. I thought this was relevant considering we were the only two teenagers at the table.
When I was scrolling through some conversation starters before the dinner, one that stuck out to me was the question that if the people at the table knew their neighbors. Tommy and Glenna have neighbors around but not directly beside them on either side of their property, so they have never made it a huge priority to get to know them. When Sara lived in Lexington, she resided in a subdivision where she knew most all of her nearby neighbors. They would jog together and come over for dinner sometimes. Callie does not have any close neighbors that she would trust to talk to, she concluded that most of them appeared to be on some type of drugs and were not people she would want to associate with. I thought this was interesting because people often stereotype those in large cities of just staying inside and not making an effort to know those around them. It stood out to me that Sara was actually the only one that had interacted with her neighbors on a personal level.
I never knew I could learn so much from a dinner at a kitchen table. I learned a lot from people I did not know before not only from hearing their thoughts on sensitive topics that they were open to willingly share, but I also learned a lot from paying attention to detail. Listening to thoughts from Sara that I barely knew before this conversation, and Callie whom I did not know at all, really opened up my eyes on how different people can be and view things. This may be related to where all of us grew up in our geographical location, but it is interesting to learn that we all live relatively within the same area and can still have very different views on so many things. I think this is one of the many beauties of living in the United States of America, things like this give us a chance to show our individuality and that most citizens can agree that we are blessed to live in this country.
During Honors 251 throughout this semester, I have learned many things about being a citizen in a community. Before this class, if someone were to ask me what being a citizen meant to me, I would have more than likely given the cliché answers like any other person would say. For example: voting, paying taxes, and all of the others that we often hear. Now, if someone were to ask me what my thoughts on being a citizen were, my answers would have much more of a broad range. One thing I have learned from this course is how to correctly have a conversation about sensitive issues without starting conflict. In class, we have discussed things that people have different views on and at the end of the day, everything is fine. I believe this has taught me skills about deliberating and even at the kitchen table, I had different views than some of those, but we still did not let this interfere with our composure we had with each other.
I can also see the conversations at the table relating to many readings we have read throughout this semester. When I think of a democracy or even just the government in general, I think of how I have responsibilities and a possibility of an impact on things. Many people do not fulfill their civic duties because they have the misconception that one person does not make much of a difference in issues that are so broad. I saw the resemblance of this while conducting my Kentucky Kitchen Table project. Coming to this realization reminded me of the article that we were assigned to read and discussed in class, The Energy Diet by Andrew Postman. In a quick summary, this article illustrates the idea that we must start small. One person may not have a relatively huge impact on being a citizen, but if multiple people come together in an act or anything of that matter, then the possibilities are limitless of what people can accomplish.
The question that arose to myself making this correlation was “Is there anything you can think to do that might make things better for you or your neighbors where you live?” I really did not know what type of answers to expect, but this was actually one act that everyone agreed on. Tommy, Glenna, Callie, and Sara all concluded that knowing people is power. The more people you know and the more connections you make, the more you will succeed. This is a group effort that relates to the topic of working together. They said that introverts typically do not succeed as much as extroverts, so it is important to know those around you. The Energy Diet says to start small. This may be one person having an idea and enticing others after that. Drawing more people in will get the movement or action more attention. You must start small, like changing a lightbulb in the article, then the end-product will be amazing because everyone has come together to accomplish one common goal.
This project was one that really opened up my eyes. It gave me a new perspective on ideas that I had never really considered and showed me that people can be very diverse and still have a common ground on certain things. From this project, I gained a tasty meal and a new viewpoint for many things.