I completed my Kentucky Kitchen Table on November 11, 2018 in my hometown of Bardstown, Kentucky. It felt very good to be home with my family for this experience because I have missed eating homecooked meals with them every night less than a year ago. For dinner, we had roast with dinner rolls and for dessert, we enjoyed delicious brownies along with milk. The aspect that made this group diverse was the ages of everyone ranging from 12 to 69. Something that we all have in common is the religion we practice, Christianity. In attendance were my dad, mom, grandma, sister, and me. My dad, Sean, is a 45-year-old and a father of 3. His job title is a Chief Administrative Officer at his work. He is a follower of Christ who is very optimistic in all situations. He graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with his bachelor’s degree. My mom, Margaret, is a 42-year-old and a wonderful mother of 3. She works at the Bardstown City Schools system as a teacher. She graduated from the University of Kentucky with her bachelor’s degree as well. My grandma, Mary, is 69 and a wonderful wife, mother, and grandmother. She is a former chemist and a former teacher. She enjoys reading, learning, quilting and gardening. My sister, Ainsley is 12 years old in middle school and is the youngest of 3 sisters. Ainsley can be described as a musician and a runner. I, on the other hand, am an 18-year-old attending Western Kentucky University and am in the process of pursuing a doctorate degree in Physical Therapy. I am also a musician, runner, and a very driven individual. Our middle sister wished she could have been there but was not able due to a prior commitment.
To begin the discussion, I asked the question, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” This was a very thought provoking question and my family responded with strong, thorough answers. Margaret was the first to answer and she saw citizenship as taking care of your community, as well as treating others the way you want to be treated. She stressed the importance of looking out for one another. An example of this that she used would be helping your elderly neighbors complete tasks that may be difficult for them (something that she does herself). Sean also answered the question with an emphasis on being an active community member. In addition, he discussed citizenship as having pride in where you’re coming from and having patriotism. Mary brought a different point to the table that freedom and democracy was what citizenship meant to her. She introduced the idea that when immigrants gain their citizenship here in America, it is very important to them to share with others and on documents that they are legal. Her point that she was trying to make was that America is a country that many people want to be a part of because of its democracy, freedom, and opportunities that it offers. Ainsley talked about how the free country in which we live offers many opportunities for everyone. She mentioned being able to get a job without the issues of race or religion arising. Overall, this question was important to begin with because it opened many doors of conversation regarding the other questions listed.
I continued the conversation with asking the question, “What do you think are the best things about our world today?” This question allowed for various ideas to be shared. Mary believed that medical advances were a huge advantage to our world today. She explained that had she been born earlier than she was, she probably wouldn’t have been alive. She said that she had an appendicitis when she was younger, and the doctors had just figured out a cure for it before she was diagnosed. Another health issue that she faced was a high-risk pregnancy with my uncles. She really expressed how thankful she was for the medical advances through the sharing of her experiences. Sean appreciates the advances that technology has made. Even though he said he does give social media a lot of grief sometime, he realizes the importance in that it gives everyone the chance to stay connected.
We then moved on to our next topic of “What is the thing you love most about where you live?” The consensus of the group was that they all chose to live in Bardstown because of the close-knit community that exists, the location, and the family we are here with. Mary has lived in many different places, one of them being Lebanon. She spoke about how the people there were very “clannish” and rude to her and her family. Margaret added in that she loves the location and is able to travel to a larger city within 40 minutes. Sean liked that the majority of our family lives here and that we have roots here. My dad was fortunate to grow up in Bardstown and still have his parents live here. This brought us to our next topic of eating together around the table with family growing up. I have grown up having dinners around the table every night with my family, for which I am very thankful. I do, however, realize that many individuals do not have the opportunity to experience this tradition. Everyone in my family also had the privilege of eating as a family every night. Margaret mentioned that if one of her dad’s friends popped in at dinnertime, they were always welcome to stay for dinner. Mary enjoyed cooking for her husband’s friends as well because she said there were no expectations for the dinner if they just stopped by.
Another question that we discussed was “Do you think we have any obligations to other people in our country? In our community?” This question wasn’t answered directly, but the complex issue of welfare did arise. We discussed how there are people who become dependent on welfare and how there is no incentive to break the cycle. The church, however, can help you build relationships with those who need God the most. That is why we concluded that we should rely on the church and followers of Christ to help these people out of their hard times. Margaret stated that if we are a Christian, we have obligations to help our community. This statement is something that was very important to us and something that we all agreed upon.
A question that brought up many points for conversation was, “Have you ever had a conversation with someone from a really different background than yourself?” Mary talked about her experiences with those from different countries in the labs in which she has worked, and these people would tell her, “Americans don’t know how easy they have it.” Margaret was an ESL teacher, so she came into contact with a lot of people from different backgrounds. They respected our religion and our way of life. She also brought up the mission trip that we both attended for two summers in the poorest parts of Eastern Kentucky. The families had opportunities to leave, but they never did because they wanted to keep their land… even with the awful conditions. She reminded me of how when we took the kids that attended our bible school back to their home, they wouldn’t even acknowledge their parents and would hop right on their bikes and leave. This was a very different way of life and it was sad to witness. Ainsley spoke about her classmates that are of different backgrounds and how that there are language barriers at time, but they do get along with everyone. Sean chose to share his encounters with someone from Ghana who attends our church. The man who Sean was talking about is highly educated and his Biblical knowledge is amazing. Coming from a country like Ghana, you can tell that he is very grateful for everything that he has.
All in all, this discussion accompanying the dinner was very beneficial in that it helped me learn the views of my family for specific topics regarding citizenship. Some major points I could take away from this discussion were the true importance of being accepting to all backgrounds and leaving a footprint in your community. Citizenship means something deeper than just voting, paying taxes, and following laws. I loved the openness of the discussion and hearing stories of my family from when they were younger because it is something that I have not had as many opportunities to listen to. The sharing of everyone’s experiences reminded me of what was discussed in class – testimonies being epistemologically significant. This project was a prime example of how much our experiences really do contribute to the knowledge we encompass. A reading that the Kentucky Kitchen Table reminded me of was “The Intuitive Dog and Its Rational Tail.” Not only did I realize the true importance of testimonies, but also sharing stories with emotion. This is because you’re speaking to the person’s elephant that is controlling the emotions. Speaking to someone’s emotions will get you further in deliberations and solving issues, so it is something that should be utilized in complex discussions. I am grateful for this opportunity and I look forward to learning more about my family along with their views.