On the night of November 5th, 2018, more than six ladies and I cozied up in a campus apartment in Bowling Green, Kentucky, over a homemade dinner. Over chicken casserole, apple pie, garlic bread, and more, we discussed the broad topic of citizenship and social issues, and all of the things in this world that impassion us the most. To begin, let’s meet all of our attendees.
Kate is a sophomore at Western Kentucky University and is a Religious Studies major. This dinner was hosted at her apartment, along with her roommates Tatum and Lauren, and little sister, Maggie. Kate is from Erlanger, Kentucky, which is approximately 15-20 minutes outside of Cincinnati. This gives Kate experience with not only smaller town culture, but also the culture of urban areas. With being a Religious Studies major, Kate is very active in her faith. She leads a community group at WKU’s Christian Student Fellowship and has a deep curiosity for different cultures and religions of the world. She has a fiery passion for the human race and is excited by getting to know others deeply.
Tatum is her roommate and also her co-community group leader and sophomore at WKU. Tatum is originally from Todd County, Kentucky, “…an extremely rural area near Hopkinsville,” she described it. She is very quirky for a biochemistry major and was actually recently accepted to Samford University’s Pharmacy School. Despite her small town background, Tatum has come in contact with a variety of different cultures since coming to WKU and also in her hometown, most notably the Amish community in her area. She is very lighthearted and loves loving on other people. Her mission in life is to just bring joy and laughter to the world.
Lauren is the roommate of Tatum and Kate, and is a sophomore at WKU. She did not disclose what she is studying here at WKU, but she hails from Lexington, KY, giving her an extremely diverse perspective. As a result of growing up in a quite urban city, Lauren has had many interactions with people of different races, cultures, religious backgrounds, etc., especially those who are impoverished. She is also very active within Christian Student Fellowship at WKU and at her church, where she ministers to local refugees. She describes herself as full of curiosity and her favorite thing to do is traveling and seeing new things.
Maggie is the little sister of Kate, and attended the dinner because she had a college visit at WKU that day, and decided to stay with her sister. Maggie is a high school student from Erlanger, KY, giving us again an urban and small town perspective. Her age difference brings a different outlook to the conversations as well. She has a huge heart for serving others, stemming from her experiences of witnessing international poverty in Guatemala.
We began the night by asking the question, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” We received a variety of different answers, but a common theme of taking action for the causes you are passionate about. Kate and Tatum both were adamant about being an informed citizen, especially with voting. To give some background, the midterm elections were the next day, so the topic and the opinions were very fresh. With being an informed citizen and participating in elections, it means you are taking action in one of its most impactful forms. You are voting towards someone with the chance to change the way things are, and that chance would not have been possible without ordinary people working to make a change. Maggie, who is only 17 years old, had a strong opinion on this topic, stating how she encourages those who can vote to hit the polls to help ensure a good future for the ones who can’t vote. She made it clear it is much better to vote and take action, instead of being stagnant. Not only can you vote, but you can have the ability to change the world and join movements you deem worth fighting for. This means raising awareness, doing marches, and everything that can cause a shift in culture and society.
Everyone at the table came to the conclusion that despite one’s beliefs, everyone should treat everyone with kindness and love. The world is so deprived of the love and simple everyday kindness that could easily make a huge impact on the way our society functions. The root of so many problems in our world is people believing they don’t need to treat others with kindness is a norm. All of the attendees stated their spiritual background has totally changed the way and is the reason why they interact with people with reckless love and kindness. They expressed their religion as a bond to bring humanity together, not a tool of division. Regardless of faith, every human should make the effort to treat everyone around them with kindness and respect.
The topic of courteous love and kindness also brought up political polarization, and how people need to respect others despite of differing beliefs. Politics should not be something that tears friendships or relationships apart; it should be embraced and celebrated as something that makes us different, which is something vital to all of humanity. Differences in beliefs bring multiple approaches to solving a problem, and is a principle that often gets lost amidst the heat of politics. As a society, we should still remain civil despite our political differences, because we are all human and deserved to be treated with love and respect. The bottom line is that you need to be a decent, kind human being in order to contribute to the greater good and solve the problems that keep eating away at our society.
These group of ladies are very passionate about a variety of different social issues, ranging from international poverty to racism within America. Maggie expressed her compassion for international poverty, after participating in a mission trip to Guatemala and how it widened her global perspective and her heart for service. With her urban background, the issue of homelessness has a special place in Lauren’s heart, and she explained her heartbreaking experiences with homeless and impoverished people. Kate raised the issue of racial reconciliation, which easily became the hot topic of the night; so hot the neighbors who casually entered the apartment quickly became involved in the discussion as well. The topic was first brought up as a social issue Kate is extremely passionate about and became a quite fiery conversation. Racism and broken relations between not only African-Americans and whites, but all racial minorities, is something deeply embedded into our country, that will only heal with more time. It is a difficult fact to confront that as a white person at least, the first thing we see is skin color when seeing a new person. People are so easily labeled and described as “that black guy” or “that asian girl” in situations where race or ethnicity is not an influential factor. Races and ethnicities should definitely maintain their cultural traditions and communities while residing in America, but that can be an excuse to divide the American society if we don’t choose to see each other as equals or fellow Americans at the same time.
The conversation of racism soon bled into interracial relationships and everyone sharing their experiences and scenarios of being involved in an interracial relationship. The idea made us discuss what our families would think if we were involved in an interracial relationship and how unfortunate it is that some family members of older generations, still firmly disagree with the idea of interracial relationships. Bailey, a neighbor who had joined the conversation, shared her experience of dating someone of a different race, and how it was perceived by her and her partner’s family. She enlightened the group on how getting involved in an interracial relationship was an immediate obstacle for her and her partner, and how differently their families accepted their partner.
I contributed to the conversations a healthy amount, but I tried my best to soak up all the knowledge I could on different worldly and spiritual perspectives, and how to casually discuss social issues. With hearing how different people look at the world, it has broadened and perhaps adjusted the way I view certain issues in the world and human nature as a whole. I learned how religion can play a role in how you treat others and that regardless of religion, everyone should strive to be a loving human being and respectful of each other. Political and social issues have never been my strong suit; they have always been topics I have avoided due to my negative connotation to them. This dinner helped me learn how to casually discuss social issues without the fear of being ridiculed and taught me that discussing social issues doesn’t always have to be in a hostile manner. They can be discussed in a positive light and in a way that we should work together to change the issue, instead of arguing on whose solution is right or wrong.
The conversations of this dinner reminded me of a few different topics we have learned in class and different readings we have read. As far as taking political action and refusing to be stagnant, I was easily reminded of the essay written by the woman who experienced chronic paralyzation. Although she was reduced to utter powerlessness, she still used every ounce of strength she could muster to continue on. She emphasized the importance of putting everything you can into a cause, or nothing at all. Going hand in hand with putting all your efforts into a cause, the discussions reminded me of the continuing idea in class of small acts making a difference. In numerous of the readings and discussions we’ve had in class, we have managed to come back to the idea of impactful small acts that could easily change social issue efforts and the way society works. For example, Rosa Parks had so many years of advocating and getting involved in the Civil Right Movement and the NAACP, building up her courage piece by piece, eventually becoming why she is so admired today. She also had countless ordinary people working with her and although those peoples’ names may not be known, they created one of the biggest movements in history. The environmental discussion relates to this idea as well, in articles and essays discussing the impact little efforts can make on saving our environment; this can be acts as little as reducing your showers by a minute, switching to reusable water bottles, and so forth. Treating others with love and kindness is a simple everyday act, that can go a long way in someone’s life, therefore inclining them to spread the kindness to someone else. It is the idea that a million small acts can make the world of difference and as far as kindness goes, if everyone would be kind and respectful to one another, we could change the whole energy of our society.
To conclude, I will treasure this Kentucky Kitchen Table in my college and life experience. I learned that social issues don’t have to be controversial or tear relationships apart. In fact, they should be discussed civilly, with the common purpose among everyone to solve the problem. Regardless of faith, race, gender, ethnicity, or overall background, society should be held to a standard of being kind to one another, and doing everything in your power to create a world filled to the brim with love.