For my Kentucky Kitchen Table, I had the meal at my home in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I was excited to host this meal because I enjoy learning about new things, hearing new perspectives, and seeing what others believe in. The meal took place after church on November 11, 2018. Including myself, there were six people at the meal. I was joined by my mom, Amanda, my dad, Robert, my brother, Chase, and Ricky and Debbie, a couple a couple that we met at our church. I invited Ricky and Debbie because, other than sitting next to them at church, I know very little about them. I thought that they could bring a different perspective since they are older and from a different part of town. I figured that they would bring wise ideas to the conversation. They are also very funny and great at telling stories. For dinner, my dad grilled steaks, and my mom made baked potatoes, rolls, and a salad. We had sweet tea and lemonade to drink. Debbie also brought a banana pudding and a blackberry cobbler for dessert.
Before I describe some of the conversations that took place over dinner, I will describe the others that I ate with. To begin, my mom, Amanda, is a perfect example of the stereotypes surrounding moms. She is an amazing cook. She cleans up the physical and mental messes of everyone. She is ruthless when it comes to protecting me and my brother. She works very hard at everything she does. Her favorite hobbies are reading and watching Hallmark movies. Next, I will describe my dad, Robert. Where my mom tends to be more intense and involved, he is usually more light-hearted around us. He is not a person that expresses his opinions on controversial topics very often. Although, he is very passionate about driving his race car. My brother, Chase, is like almost any other fifteen year old. He spends about 90% of his time on Youtube and Fortnite. He is very fiery and intense, especially when people disagree with him. Ricky and Debbie are people that I did not know very much about. However, they are very intriguing. They are both in their early sixties and retired. They will be married 45 years next July. They wanted me to point out that they grew up in a very different time. They are from Bowling Green, as is everyone else at the table. Ricky’s favorite activities are hunting and fishing. Debbie’s favorite activities are talking on the phone and working on word searches. Their favorite thing to do together is spend time with their grandkids. Everyone at this table is capable of bringing something unique to the discussions.
I began the conversation by asking, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”. I’m not really sure how I expected everyone to answer, but I was mildly surprised at the wide range of answers from the table. Ricky gave the most simple answer by saying that citizenship is just living in America. Debbie took it a small step further by saying that all citizens should support and be proud of America. Amanda said that good citizens should have active roles in their communities. Instead of doing the minimum to get through the day, they should take it to the next level. When I asked what she thought the next level was, she said that it was standing up for your beliefs in a public way. Robert and Chase both felt that they were not sure how to answer the question. I’m not sure what belief that I agree with. In a way, I can see the simplistic stance that Ricky and Debbie have, but I also feel that it is important to be active in the community.
Moving on, the next topic that came up in our discussion was about the change of neighborhoods over time. For me and Chase, we have never known very much about our neighbors. I always thought that this was because most of the houses in our neighborhood are separated by large fields and wooded areas. However, when listening to Ricky and Debbie talk about each of their neighbors, most of which live farther away than our neighbors do to us, i realized that this was deeper than distance. Ricky and Debbie could write biographies about the people that live near them. It almost made me feel bad for not knowing more about my neighbors. Although, as Robert pointed out, interaction is a two-way street. He said that if people are not willing to open up to you, there was nothing you could do to build a relationship with them. Debbie said that she thought that if younger people would be as friendly to each other as they have been to their neighbors for nearly forty years in the same area, divisiveness may decrease in our country. To me, this discussion fit in with one of the three essential questions in our class. ‘How can we live better together?’ is very important when it comes to living in neighborhoods and communities. I think that it knowing your neighbors is something that is often overlooked, but can be very beneficial when it comes to building goodwill and morale between people.
Debbie’s statement led us to our next major conversation point. This point was about divisiveness in America. Everyone at the table agreed that political parties play a major role. Amanda also placed emphasis on how the ways people talk. Chase agreed that for people to progress together, they can not resort to name calling every time that they have a disagreement. I brought up the point that some of this could have to deal with politics and the media. If all of the public role models that we see on television or online are screaming at each other and calling each other names, regular people are more inclined to take that approach when they have disagreements. Amanda said that she felt that people have to take their own prerogative to treat each other with kindness. I thought that these statements were relatable to many of the things that we discuss in class. When we have discussions, they are always more productive when everyone is heard, and no one is tearing down others. This is a sharp contrast to what we all see in many debates today, especially recently with all of the election hoopla.
When we were talking about neighborhoods and knowing our neighbors, I couldn’t help but think back to the three chapters that we read from Love Thy Neighbor by Peter Maass. Would things be different in the Bosnian Civil War if the Serb population and the Muslim population could find commonalities instead of differences? After reading the disturbing account from Maass, a journalist who covered the war firsthand, the concept of community always stood out to me. How could neighbors kill each other ruthlessly in their own homes and streets? A possible explanation for these events could have something to do with a disconnect between different groups of neighbors. While it is mostly unlikely that an event of these proportions could occur in America today, it is very concerning to read accounts like the ones present in Love Thy Neighbor. It gives me an initiative to be more active in building lasting relationships with my neighbors. It is truly devastating to see people die over racial and ethnic differences that may have been able to be worked out with dialogue between people.
Another reading that came to mind for me during the dinner conversation was the “How We Talk Matters” reading from week three of our class. A major emphasis of this article was on deliberation and how it can prove beneficial. The overarching argument of the author is that when people get together to have positive and constructive conversations, problems become easier to solve. I found it interesting that everyone at the table was able to recognize the ultimate importance of communication when it comes to solving problems. I know this importance due to multiple discussions and deliberations in our class, but only one other person that was at the table with me had a college degree. Nearly every point that someone made at our dinner could relate back to communication. This is similar to how many points that are brought up in our class discussions fall back to the same topic.
To sum up, I felt that my Kentucky Kitchen Table meal was very productive. I was not quite sure what to expect when this all came together. I did not know what my own family members would bring to the conversation, and the addition of two people that I do not know very well added to my intrigue. However, it was a pleasant surprise that everyone contributed so well to our shared dialogue. The biggest thing that I am going to take away from this project was that people have different upbringings, lifestyles, and beliefs, but their are some things that people shared. While six people is a small sample size, I feel that the shared emphasis on communication is a trend that may apply to the rest of the world. Beginning this conversation gave me a lot of the same feelings that I had when I walked into Honors 251 for the first class. I was not quite sure what to make of the situation, but there were plenty of positives to take away once it got going. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my Kentucky Kitchen Table, and it is something that I would like to do again with another group of people.