Starting from left clockwise: Betty, Joe, Vannah, Sheila, Logan, Nate (he was not apart of my KKT but he wanted in the picture), Gabe, and Larry
My Kentucky Kitchen Table meal took place on Friday, November 9, 2018. I hosted the dinner at my own house in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Williamsburg is a small city in southeastern Kentucky. I hosted a dinner of seven guests. My first attendee was Betty. She was a member of my local church, Mountain Ash Baptist Church, who has lived most of her life in Williamsburg. She is the mother of three boys and was employed in food services at Pleasant View Elementary School before she was injured and had to retire. She now lives less than a mile from my house where she enjoys talking on the phone and cooking for her husband. Her husband, Joe, is actually my second guest. Joe was a maintenance supervisor for Roper Corporation for over 25 years while also being the father of three boys. Joe served in the United States Army for four years. Joe has long been retired and now enjoys his free time fishing and working on his farm, raising cattle. Joe is the oldest guest at my dinner and has had the most life experiences. He, as well as his wife Betty, have lived throughout many important political, cultural, and economic differences in American history. My third guest was Vannah. Vannah is a pharmacy technician at Windham Drug, a local pharmacy. Vannah is in her twenties and has lived her entire life in Williamsburg. She enjoys traveling and had recently returned to Williamsburg from a trip to Las Vegas. Next on my guest list was my own mother, Sheila. Sheila is not from Williamsburg. She was born and raised in London, Kentucky. She grew up on a small tobacco farm and received her undergraduate degree at Somerset Community College. She worked 14 years as a registered nurse until she re-enrolled at Eastern Kentucky University and became a certified family nurse practitioner. She is the mother of two and feels very proud of her family. My next attendee was Gabe. Gabe is the son of my mother’s co-worker. He is the youngest of all the guests being sixteen and attends the same high school I went to last year. Gabe really enjoys cars and wants to be a mechanic who creates custom body jobs for vehicles. Being so young, I felt like Gabe would bring a younger perspective to my dinner. My final guest was my father Larry. Larry has lived most of his life in Williamsburg and attended the University of the Cumberlands where he received a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He is a financial advisor for Booth Energy. He also owns a cattle farm where he spends most of his free time. I, Logan, was the last attendee. I am freshman Biology major at Western Kentucky University.
The diversity around my table was easily visible. First of all, the generation gap could be seen with my guest’s age ranging from sixteen to almost eighty. Age is not just a number, instead, it comes with experiences. The world around us is constantly changing and people who are older have lived through those changes. Joe and Betty have experienced a world that no one else at this table will experience, even when the rest of the guests and I reach their age. From these different experiences, I expected diverse responses to my questions. However most if not all of my guests attended church and held close to the same political views. Despite these similarities, their responses were generally more different than I expected.
I began with the only required question: “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Vannah responded first with, “community.” She went on to explain how being community-based is very important and how helping others is at the top of her priority list. To my surprise, Gabe was quick to join in agreeing with Vannah. He compared citizenship to a football team. I asked for him to further explain and he talked about how a football team is composed of eleven players, each one having their own job. When all the players work together, the team wins. This really made me think about how something as complicated as citizenship, with so many different ideas, could be so easily comparable to a team sport. Each person having their own “job” or ideas, but all working towards victory. Larry also provided his input on the question with a more individualized approach. He said that citizenship is the ability to have the “American dream.” A place where a citizen can work hard, better his or herself and provide for his or her family. However, he also said helping others is just as important. My father did not believe in handouts of giving people money, but instead, he helps out the community with opportunities. Many times, he has offered jobs as farmhands to local citizens. Joe was very quiet and did not speak much throughout the entire dinner. His wife, Betty, offered most of the responses, which Joe would agree with. Betty agreed with Larry and really emphasized helping others. Sheila also contributed to the conversation with the idea of helping others. She had just recently participated in a suicide prevention walk in our local hometown in order to help educate others of local resources that are available for those that are suffering with depression or suicidal ideations. This established within my dinner table that no matter the age, we all agreed that helping others in our community was a very important part of being a citizen.
After learning this information about my guests, we discussed work and how each of the guests viewed his or her self as serving a bigger role in the community. Sheila was the first to respond. As an obstetrics nurse, she assisted in delivering babies at our local hospital for ten years and explained how she helped bring new life into the world. Now that she is a nurse practitioner, she often sees the families and children she helped deliver. Sheila feels like she is a part of that person’s life journey to keep them healthy to grow into new citizens of the community. Vannah was also quick to agree because she works in the medical field as well. As a pharmacy technician, she helps the citizens stay healthy by providing them the certain medications they need. Larry also pitched in and talked about how he provided energy to homes across Kentucky and was very proud of doing so. Being retired, Joe and Betty didn’t see their jobs as serving a greater purpose, but we all agreed that providing any good or service helps the community. Gabe being sixteen did not have a job yet, but he said that by being a mechanic he could help people by fixing their cars, so they could get to work. After hearing all this I made a connection that everyone’s job can be connected. It goes back to the idea of a team we discussed earlier. Each person provides a good or service to another citizen who can further go on to provide more services. It’s like a cycle.
The last thought that was established during my dinner was brought up on accident. I did not ask a question, but rather Sheila was talking to Larry about how a woman’s idea of a future has changed over time. It really sparked a conversation throughout my guests. It was the idea that a culture changed had happened throughout generations and how women did not have the same ideas in the past. For example, Betty explained that when she was younger that she was taught by her mother that she needed to “find a good man who would provide for the family.” So instead of being influenced by her mother to go to college and get a degree, she was taught how to do certain household chores like cooking, cleaning, laundry, and taking care of the children. Sheila explained that she was also taught those things but was taught the importance of education as well. Sheila was raised to be more independent, in order to provide for herself. Sheila has also implemented those same values into her daughter, that is now employed as a registered nurse, owns her own home at the age of twenty-three, and lives independently. Vannah also agreed that she has never felt like she should have to depend on a significant other to provide for her. She was taught by her mother to always work hard and be able to work independently, even though her mother was raised with the same values as my guest Betty. The men at the table didn’t have much input but Larry agreed that people, no matter the sex, should be able to work hard and provide for his or herself and not be dependent on others.
When I first read the requirements of the Kentucky Kitchen Table, I was not looking forward to it; however, after completing it, I was very happy with the outcome. First of all, when you are in college, you do not get the opportunity to sit down and have a nice dinner very often. Furthermore, this dinner allowed me to not only gain knowledge on how people around my community think but also how my own parents feel about certain topics and citizenship. One thing I learned that Betty brought to my awareness was the dying age of male chivalry in today’s younger generation. She grew up in an age where men were expected to open doors or give up his seat to a lady. After pondering this thought, I feel that through the evolution of women’s independence, some women view these gestures as a sign of weakness and would prefer to open the door themselves. It’s very obvious that generations have changed over the years and will continue to change.
This dinner relates to what I learned in our class by learning about living together better and how we have more say over our lives. During the beginning of the dinner, my guests and I discussed how we can help our community by being good citizens which goes hand in hand with living together better. Something that was interesting was when Sheila brought up the culture change and how women are taught to become more independent. This goes with our class’s third question: “How can we have more of a say over our lives – and contribute to others to having more of a say over their lives?” By having more control over one’s life, you can choose to become more independent. One thing I noticed from the observation is how people answered based on moral aspects of being raised in a southern Christian community. A reading that goes along with this “The Irrational Dog and Its Intuitive Tail” by Jonathan Haidt. He explains how moral judgment is a cognitive process and usually peoples’ first responses to certain questions or actions. He further explains how a person’s reasoning justifies their moral or emotional response.
The Kentucky Kitchen Table has taught me that no matter how small a community is, that there is diversity within it. With this diversity, you can learn a whole new perspective or ideas through simple conversations. You may learn something new if you just take the time to ask and listen.