My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place on the 8th of November 2018 in Bowling Green Kentucky. For this assignment my classmate Will and I partnered up. Our hosts, Taylor and Sarah, were kind enough to lend their apartment kitchen to us in order to prepare the meal and dessert. The meal itself consisted of spaghetti, garlic bread, biscuits, and homemade cookies. Our little group contained six contributors overall including my partner and I. We were lucky enough to have the combined opinions of three freshman, two sophomores, and a senior in college from varying cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, sexualities, and upbringings. Austin (Perk) is a senior at WKU studying Psychology and is a very kind, soft spoken, and observant individual. Taylor, a sophomore at WKU, is majoring in Education and had a very bubbly, outspoken, and caring personality type. Sarah, our other sophomore also attending WKU, is majoring in Speech Pathology and was the one gracious enough to offer up her apartment for our project. Sarah gave off a very maternal and compassionate vibe that made the KKT feel more comfortable. Austin (T), a fellow freshman at WKU, is studying Business and Architecture and was a huge help in preparing the food and giving a helping hand just because it was in his nature to do so. My partner Will is majoring in Mechanical Engineering and is a freshman with a very open mind as well as an accepting individual you makes sure everyone feels equally involved and respected. I myself am a freshman majoring in Marketing with a Psychology minor.
The biggest question posed to the table was what citizenship meant to everyone aside from voting, paying taxes, and following laws. At first the question led to silence, as no one had an immediate answer besides the restricted ones. Form this observation I figured that citizenship was not something many people put much thought to in their daily lives. Once the gears in everyone’s brains started turning we got a good response out of the group. Being a good neighbor or a good samaritan were two things the group agreed a citizen should strive to be. Citizenship also brought to mind volunteer work and giving back to your community and country you were born and raised in. An interesting thought brought into the discussion was the fact that what citizenship means can differ from one community to another and be dependent on wealth, socioeconomic status, or where you’re from. We also asked everyone what they liked most about WKU, their current community. Everyone came to the conclusion that WKU was a good middle ground for those from big and small cities to feel comfortable because it’s not overwhelmingly large but it’s also not a small community. Some key likes of WKU was how easy it is to create a close community due to the manageable size and how most of the people here are welcoming to others. The downside to WKU was how nearly everything is closed on the weekends which makes most people go home due to having little to no incentive to stay on the weekend. Weekend activities to draw people back or provide something for those staying was agreed to be a good idea long overdue for WKU’s campus life.
Another significant question Will and I asked was what kind of person everyone wished to become in the future. The overall ideal self was someone trustworthy, reliable, genuine, and charismatic. Something that really stood out to me was when Sarah said the “biggest compliment is a genuine thank you” and that all she wanted to be was someone who did right by others and had them feel genuinely thankful for whatever she did. Her saying was something she had read somewhere before and decided to keep tucked in her mind as a reminder of who she strove to be and what her goal as a citizen was to uphold for herself as well as for those around her. The follow up question was what advice any of them would offer to someone running for office. This question drew in everyone’s attention the most, as many of them felt as though too many of those in office did not do their job how they should. Those running for office would do best to be advised to understand where they come from as well as those they represent and find middle ground everyone is comfortable with on issues instead of catering to one side due to preference or money. Being entirely transparent was a largely supported idea in the group, as no one should lead who hides things from those who put their complete trust in them.
What I learned from my KKT is that the questions we asked our participants need to be discussed more openly in society. It was very obvious during the discussion that the topics at hand were not ones that often came to people’s minds in their daily life even though they were simple things that should be considered more. I also found that I had more in common with a group of strangers than I thought I would. I tend to agree with just about everything that was contributed to the discussion and that came as a pleasant surprise to me. The whole experience reminded me of The Small Work in the Great Work by Victoria Safford in “ The Impossible Will Take a Little While”. Much like in this passage we all met as a group to discuss a general topic all together respectfully. In both my experience and in the chapter my class read and discussed the group discussion was in a way therapeutic and left everyone with different perspectives to ponder even after the discussion took place. I realized how important it is for communities to come together and talk about literally anything, hard and easy topics, in order to have a better sense of togetherness and to make everyone feel included and involved. If people do not work together and keep their minds open the world cannot progress in a way that is beneficial to all and inclusive of everyone.
I did not know any of my Kentucky Kitchen Table participants prior to the meal except Will, so I was completely out of my comfort zone doing this project. I found that having a meal with people allowed us to feel closer even though we didn’t know each other and helped us to open up more with one another. Being as I’m usually quiet in discussions due to having anxiety it was a huge accomplishment to feel comfortable enough to share my opinion with a group of strangers. After the discussion I felt like I had a much better understanding of everyone I interacted with. The conversations that look place made me realize I need to implement these important questions as well as other topics into my daily life and make myself more informed in order to contribute more to society. I plan to talk more about wicked problems as well as simple topics like who I strive to be just to keep my goals clear and my mind thinking. The world grows on thoughts, and the more we think the more we can grow and improve the world around us as well as better our understandings of ourselves and what we stand for. If we as a society get into the habit of holding gatherings like this with our neighbors or our communities I think we would all benefit positively. There are no downsides to learning from one another, we can only gain from understanding others standpoints and feelings about things. The Honors class I’m in has definitely challenged me to contribute to discussions and think more in depth about topics in order to best respond in class and share my thoughts. The class discussions are a great gateway to implementing productive discussions to personal lives instead of just academic lives. I have also observed that when people open their minds they are much more respectful and able to benefit from talking about issues. The main problem we face today is that closed off attitude that I am very thankful my Kentucky Kitchen Table lacked. If people are unwilling to listen to differing opinions then they are unwilling to learn and refuse to reevaluate their own mindset.
Overall the Kentucky Kitchen Table was a learning experience I am thankful for even if it was out of my comfort zone. I genuinely enjoyed eating supper with people I did not know well and learning their standpoints on the questions I asked. It was very refreshing to talk to people I would normally just walk by in the street without a second thought. I think occasions like this are a good way for people in a community to grow close and become stronger and more representative of each other. Back in my hometown there is a huge lack of personal connection amongst the community and this project made me realize just how bad it was. I feel much more aware of the lack of communication our society has but I also feel more prepared to help change that problem. This class and this project have made me feel more involved and more likely to talk about problems I see with those around me, whether I know them or not, just to see how they feel and what they think. I would like to see the world grow, and I look forward to growing along with it.