By: Megan Hesse
My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place Sunday afternoon on November 11th in my hometown of Madison Indiana. My aunt was coming down to spend the day with my mom. My aunt Julie is 33 and lives in northern Kentucky, she offered to bring a lovely salad to the lunch. We invited my neighbors who moved into the neighborhood a few months ago to the dinner as well. Will and his daughter Laura were able to come, they brought homemade rolls that were honestly delicious. My younger sister and mom were both at the meal as well. In the group of people, there was still diversity. We had many different religions at the table, my mom sister and I are all Catholic, but my aunt just joined a nondenominational modern Christian church and my neighbors are both Mormons. There are also different age groups represented at the table, my sister Kelly and Laura are both in high school, my aunt is in her early 30’s, and my mom and neighbor Will are in their 40’s and 50’s. My aunt also had a different sexual orientation than the other members at the table.
The first question that I asked was what being a citizen is to them to them, besides the basic an. All of the answers were surprisingly very similar. They all agreed that being a citizen means that to be elevate the area in which they live. This could simply mean to be nice and kind to the people around them or volunteering for different service organizations. It was also mentioned to participate in different activities going on in the area and communication and connecting with the people living in your area as well. They believed that connecting with people around them is important to citizenship. They all believed that the most important aspect of citizenship was just being a good person to the people around them.
I then asked each of them what they personally do or how their jobs allow them to be a better citizen. At my mom’s work, they have a service group that she has previously been the president that raised money for different causes around Madison. My aunt Julie is very involved in her church and service project that they do as well. She also talked about a race deliberation group that talks about how different races are treated in the area and a possible solution to problems. Even though no real actions have come about through it, she still feels like she is becoming more aware of situations going on around her, making her a better citizen. Adam was the next to answer, he has spent many years going on service trips and felt that it was making him a better person. He also works a good job so he was money to support his family and have enough to donate to other service organizations that he cares about. Kelly and Laura both really didn’t know what they do particularly to be a citizen. They both aren’t old enough to vote. They still both do some service work and they feel like that helping them be better citizens. They also are both in government classes at school, and Will pointed out that learning about our government and how it works helps us to be more informed and aware of what is going on around us and will allow us to be better citizens. I then asked them they felt like they have an obligation to help the other people in their communities. The whole group also agreed that we should help the less fortunate in the community.
When asked what type of community they wanted to live in their answers were also very similar. They wanted to live in a place where all people were treated with respect and people are kind to others. They wanted communities to have different things where the people can be involved and feel a part of it. Julie stressed the importance of accepting and respecting all people. She said that regardless of race, sexual orientation, or anything else that may set people apart from others, everyone needs to be treated with respect. Everyone else agreed that acceptance for all was an important factor for all successful communities. My mom likes that in her community she knows many people and people still say hi even if they don’t know each other. I then asked everyone else about how knowing the people around you make you feel part of the community. Most people agreed that knowing people always make you feel more involved and have a sense of belonging. My family makes it a point to know our neighbor and my whole neighborhood is friendly and kind towards each other which makes it feel like a little community. My mom also talked and becomes friends with almost everyone she comes into contact with in her daily life.My aunt doesn’t feel that knowing people makes for feel involved in the community. Some people may prefer to stay to themselves more, but still be a member as much as everyone else. Julie doesn’t quite know her neighbors as well. She doesn’t mind it though because she is more reserved and doesn’t need close connections with the people around her. She doesn’t have any children and feel like that is something that brings people together when parents interact, and kids become good neighbor friends. Will and his family have gotten to know many of the people in the neighborhoods since their move a few months ago and agree that once they knew the neighbors better they felt like they were more of the community.
The conversation then turned to talk about their childhoods and growing up. My mom and aunts were surprisingly different. My mom had 2 sisters that were very close to her in age. She grew up with a big family feeling. Her family all ate sit down dinner together, her parents were married, and they did many things together as a family. When she was in high school her little sister Julie was born. Julie still grew up having sisters, but they were older and not in her life every day. Her family didn’t sit down for dinner together every night anymore. She said she would have really enjoyed getting to sit down and talk with her family every day. My mom still makes sure that my family sits down to eat dinner every day. We aren’t even allowed to have phones at the table because my parents think that is rude, but also because it takes away from just enjoying being in the presences of one another. My sister said that she really enjoys our daily dinners. It’s a good time to really sit down and talk to your family members. Many of her friends and their families don’t sit down and have sit-down dinners like our family does. They will sit in front of the TV together and watch their favorite show, or they will just have dinner sitting out and the kids can come by and grab it whenever they feel like it. My sister thinks that there is a connection between people’s relationships with their parents and sit-down dinners. All of my siblings, including myself, are pretty close to our parents, and she sees that her friends that don’t sit down to dinner are don’t talk to their parents as much. It’s too easy for siblings and parents to never really have in-depth conversations and sitting down to dinner is an easy way for that not to happen. Will and his family also sit down to eat dinner together every night, and he loves knowing what is going on in his kids’ lives all the time.
There are a lot of things from the conversations that I had that can be applied to our class. Being a citizen and our duties is a central topic for discussion in class and that is what we discussed for a long amount of time. We also discussed how being involved in your communities can make you a better citizen and the different ways that they make the world around them a better place. When talking about sitting around at family dinner tables I felt connected to the class a lot. We talk about how many people (especially our age) aren’t thinking about deep issues or taking time to have in-depth discussions at all. Laura even commented that she doesn’t usually talk about these types of things with people. I was surprised, but pleased, to see that my aunt is involved in a deliberation group and participates in these types of discussions in her everyday life. When I told my parents about this project they didn’t seem too excited about it. They thought it was a strange project to require us to do. After we sat down and started discussing my mom seemed to be really interested in the discussion. She saw the value of us sitting down to discuss these topics. I was surprised that so many of the answers were so similar for the group of people that were at the table. There were different ages and religions, but everyone seemed to place value on the same things.