Last Sunday, November 11, 2018, I was invited to Evan Hughes’ home to eat dinner with him and his family. There was eight people in total at this dinner, all with varying ages. Evan and I are both eighteen. Evan’s youngest sister, Ellie, is fourteen and his oldest sister, Maddie, is twenty-one. Evan’s parents, Chris Hughes and Melanie Hughes are both in their fifties and so are Joe Hendricks and Kaye Hendricks, who are longtime friends of Evan’s family. So, at this dinner, there is a freshman in high school, two college freshmen, a young adult just out of college and four financially stable adults, each with kids.
When Evan and I first arrived at his home, dinner was not yet ready, but the whole house smelt like a nice, home-cooked meal from the moment we stepped through the door. All the women were busy helping making dinner, which, honestly, was surprising to me because my mother has always been the only woman in my house,so she always cooked by herself for the entire family. Anyways, I was introduced to the Evan’s mom and sisters, then entered the living room to meet his dad and the family cats and wait for dinner to be ready.
Shortly after, a call from the kitchen announced that dinner was ready and oh man was I hungry. Before me was an excellent spread of burritos, taco bowls, and any taco topping you can think of. Chris Hughes said a short prayer over the meal and the night and then his family insisted that I get my plate first because I was their guest, which I hated. It felt so weird to go before the women; growing up, my mom always hammered manners into my head, so it is second nature at this point. Evan followed me to get his plate and I got a glass of water then followed him to the kitchen table. Maddie asked if we would like some music to go along with the meal and everybody replied positively so she pulled out her iPhone, logged onto Spotify and soon authentic mariachi music was playing in the beautiful, Russellville home.
We all started eating and engaged in small-talk with each other and since I hadn’t met any of these people until thirty minutes before, I think this really helped me settle in and just get a little bit more comfortable with my surroundings because I had been very cautious to keep from doing anything that could be seen as even remotely rude up to this point. Soon enough though, Evan and I had both cleaned our plates and Melanie noticed as soon as I took my last bite and immediately insisted that I get more. So, we went back into the kitchen, got our second helping and headed back to the table. Shortly after our return, one of the girls said, “So are we going to start the thing now?” I looked at Evan and we both just shrugged our shoulders and basically agreed it was time to begin.
The first question was “Beyond voting, paying taxes and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” I couldn’t think of an answer off the top of my head, but the adults were quick to speak. Chris talked about carrying your own weight and doing your part for the community while Kaye and Melanie both hit on being respectful and helping neighbors. The golden rule was also brought up which came from them being teachers. Kaye is currently an elementary school teacher, Melanie used to be a teacher and now works for the Board of Education and even Maddie is going to school to become a teacher so there was plenty of teachers at the table. They all agreed about treating others the way you want to be treated and thought that it is an essential part of citizenship.
After that we moved on to “What kind of community do you want to live in?” and I believe everyone would say just a nice, safe community where everybody is friendly and everyone else at the table said the same thing, but the adults took it a bit further. They discussed how community means that people work together for the good of the community and build up each other so that the everybody can live as well together as possible, which really reminded me of one of the key questions of our class “How do people live well together?” I think we all really agreed that when people come together in order to better the community and better understand others, that is when community is at its best and everyone feels content with the community, and all of that kind of ties into the next question we asked about “What is your favorite part of the community you live in?” I didn’t have much to say about this question because I am not very involved with my neighborhood and haven’t ever talked to either of my neighbors even though I have lived in my current house for almost four years, but Evan’s parents both really enjoy how safe their neighborhood is and are very close with their neighbors. They explained that Logan County has more of a family atmosphere than other places, so the community seems much closer because everybody is just so friendly and relatable and welcoming. Chris also loves the history of the area and how it has had a mix of agriculture and industry for a long time.
“Do you see your job as serving a greater purpose?” brought us to our next topic. Kaye and Melanie, having been elementary school teachers, both felt passionately about this. They talked about how being responsible for teaching young children includes making sure they develop into good citizens by instilling good character traits such as respect, humility, and determination. Kaye said it best by saying she is building “little citizens.” I had never really seen it like that and I feel that most elementary school teachers probably don’t get a lot of respect because many people don’t see them as responsible for developing the character of kids, just teaching them how to read and write. With my job as a cook at a local pizza restaurant in my hometown, obviously I toss pizza dough and make pizzas, but I’m not just making people food. With an open kitchen, I often talk to the guests and got to know many regulars during my time there and I just wanted to help people have a good time and enjoy their meal. A simple interaction with somebody can always brighten their day and I never know what a person is going through so that’s why I always felt the need to be polite to everyone.
We then moved onto “Do you think we have any obligations to other people in our country?” I would say everybody at the table agreed that if you are in position to help others, then you should always try to help. And this doesn’t mean you need to be financially wealthy and writing big checks to charity. You can help in so many ways, such as volunteering at a local non-profit, giving some spare change to a homeless person, or even just giving a pedestrian a ride on a cold, winter day. Often times, we are too caught up in our lives and make ourselves so busy that we feel we are too busy to ever take some time to help others and the truth is that in a community, people help each other because they care for each other.
The last question that Evan and I asked was “What social issue is closest to your heart and why?” and after a quick joke from Chris about how healthcare is closest to his heart because it’s what takes care of his heart, we quickly got into the biggest discussion of the night, with family and marriage dominating the conversation. Joe talked about how having kids before marriage puts the children at a much higher chance of living in poverty and developing certain psychological problems, as well as picking up bad habits like smoking and drinking. Chris brought up that people leaving their families is more common now and it stems from the childhood of those who leave their families and typically, they experienced divorce between their parents, so they do not have that strong tie to a family. The adults also believed that marriage had changed from a sacred bond to just a government contract and because of the government’s part in marriage, people now have a skewed idea of it and do not take it as seriously as they should. This led us into discussing something known as the “sexual revolution” which I had never heard of before, which kind of reminded me of the reading about how young people are losing their sense of morality. I understood what the adults were getting at, but my parents both have had multiple divorces and I still intend on making sure I have the right person in my life before starting a family and when I finally do start that family, I’m going to be totally confident that it is going to last.
I’ve always hated when adults assume things about young people but at the same time, I understand where they come from, even more so now that I was able to listen to Chris, Melanie, Joe and Kaye talk about their concerns for the direction that people are heading. I also hate when young people complain about how their parents or those of authority attempt to steer them in the right direction because kids my age or younger haven’t experienced the things that our parents have and that’s why they tell us these things. We want to succeed in our lives and perhaps our parents want us to succeed even more.
This was a fun assignment and I certainly enjoyed the home-cooked meal which are certainly a luxury now that I’m in college. This assignment taught me about how to play a part in your community, helping others, and the sexual revolution and it really is crazy how much I see “wicked problems” in our daily lives and how hard it is to really talk about these problems, let alone solve them.