On Monday, November 5th, Olivia, Liz, and I hosted our Kentucky Kitchen Table Dinner in Bowling Green, Kentucky at the apartment of Tatum and Kate, a couple of our acquaintances that we had met through the Christian Student Fellowship at Western Kentucky University. Unfortunately, due to being sick, I attended via FaceTime, but even though I couldn’t be there in person, (or eat any of Olivia’s amazing, so I’ve heard, chicken casserole) it was still a wonderful and unique experience. Those who attended were Kate, Tatum, Maggie, and Lauren; however, multiple people showed up at the apartment throughout the dinner and joined in on both the eating and the conversation. Many interesting and thought- provoking topics were brought up and discussed during our dinner.
This experience definitely helped usget to know each other better as people. Tatum is from Todd County, which is near Hopkinsville, Kentucky. She is a sophomore at WKU, and she is majoring inBiochemistry and will be attending pharmacy school next fall. Also, Tatum would like to be described as someone who loves to laugh and is very light heartedand quirky. Kate is from Erlanger, Kentucky, which is in the northern part of thestate. She is also a sophomore at WKU, and her major is Religious Studies. Kate would like to be described as someone who is very passionate about causes close to her heart as well as meeting new people and getting to know them. Maggie isalso from Erlanger, Kentucky, as she and Kate are sisters; however, Maggie is only seventeen and still in high school. Lauren is from Lexington, Kentucky and also a sophomore at WKU, but I am unsure of her major. Tatum, Lauren, and Kate are all roommates in their apartment. They also are all Christians who attend Christian Student Fellowship, a non- denominational Christian campus ministry at WKU, with Tatum and Kate leading a community group within the ministry, and they were mostly raised in Christian households. Personally, I believe that both where they are from and their different life experiences makes them a very diverse group of people who all have differing, unique opinions to bring to the table. There were also around three or four people that randomly showed up at Tatum and Kate’s apartment throughout the dinner whom I didn’t know at all. They were able to bring their own perspectives to the discussion even though they didn’t even know we were having the dinner and only attended for a shorttime.
The very first question we asked was the one that this entire activity was centered around: “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”. This question elicited some answers that aren’t typically thought of, in my opinion anyway.The main answer was said by Kate when she spoke of how, as Christians, we havedual citizenship, meaning that we are citizens of both Heaven and Earth. We discussed how our allegiance is first to God and then to America and how this truth of ours ultimately affects how we treat people in everyday life as well as our stances on local, state, national, and global issues. As Christians, we discussed how our ultimate task in life is to love others and, because of that,we view people around us in a different light and strive to serve others andour country in whatever ways we can. This question also opened the door for the question concerning how our religious or spiritual identity affects how we treat other people and how we view ourselves as citizens. Our religion impacts every aspect of our lives.
This conversation reminded me immediately of an essay in “Part Five: Courage is Contagious” of TheImpossible Will Take a Little While. The essay is called “Faith Works”. Itsmain point discusses how religion should be used as a method of healing ratherthan a method of division, which it is unfortunately too often used as. Thisessay also points out that religious communities have the power and love needed to change the world for the better, but instead, they take advantage of thisopportunity and use religion as a source of conflict and division among people.This essay was one of my favorites we have read in class because of the important message it brings to those who read it.
Our conversation of dual citizenship also brought me to one of our main questions we discuss in class: “How can people live better together?”. As we were talking about maintaining dualcitizenship and loving others, I couldn’t help but see the connection to people living better together. I thought about what the world would be like and how well we could truly live together if everyone genuinely loved each other and served one another. If everyone viewed citizenship through a lens of love,always wondering what would be the best situation for everyone and how they could love and serve those around them better each and every day, then the world would be better for it, and I believe we would be able to live better together, with a deeper understanding of each other.
We began to discuss being a good person in general after our conversation concerning religion. As people, we understand that not everyone identifies with a specific religion, but we all firmly believe in just trying to be a good person working towards the greater good of society despite religious beliefs. Being a good person in general, we agreed, includes being compassionate towards your fellow human beings.
Then, we asked if anyone had ever had a conversation with someone of a completely different background from their own. Tatum brought up how, in Todd County, there is a large Amish community andthat she has had many conversations with them about their beliefs and their lifestyle, being completely removed from the world, in it but not of it. Kate then began to talk about a woman that she has had extensive conversations with whose parents are illegal immigrants and how that has affected this woman’s childhood, her background, and her beliefs. We also discussed different churches in the Bowling Green area, such as Journey and Christ Fellowship that have both a very diverse congregation and service.
The conversation began to take a political turn when we started to talk about taking action in society to make a change. Maggie brought a unique perspective to this conversation since she is only seventeen and can’t vote yet. She reinforced the concept of using your voice and taking action, not only for yourself but for those younger than you who don’t have that ability yet. Those of us who have the ability to vote began to talk about how we believe it is important to be an active citizen as opposed to being stagnant and apathetic to the current situation of our country and our world. Kate brought up how she thought it was so cool that, around every election time, the Herald profiles each of the candidates in Bowling Green so that college students can be informed voters when they go to the poll. She emphasized how important it was to be educated on our current circumstances and how dangerous ignorance can be.
This gave us the opportunity to ask what social issues everyone was passionate about. Kate brought two issues tothe table. One was abortion and the other was racial reconciliation. Kate has very strong opinions about abortion and hopes that one day there will be racial reconciliation, as racism is still prevalent. Maggie brought up how she had recently been on a mission trip to Guatemala and how that had opened her eyes to international poverty, which is an issue that is near to her heart.
Of course, bringing up social issues brought up the topic of political polarization in America. Again, we discussed how we mostly believe that the root of the issue is the lack of love in compassion as well as the lack of willingness to listen to the opinions of others. Each of us expressed how the current political climate of America broke our hearts and how we hope it eventually will change for the better, with people beginning to listen to one another and having open minds. We all seemed to believe that solving this issue would begin to make many other problems we have here in America much easier to tackle.
When Kate brought up racial reconciliation as an issue she was passionate about,this sparked an entirely new conversation about racism in America, discussinghow we all hoped it would become completely eradicated one day. We talked abouthow the issue has gotten better over time but how it is still quite prevalentin our country today. This led the conversation to the discussion ofinterracial relationships and how we thought our families would react to eachof us being in an interracial relationship. Sadly, some of us realized that theolder members of our family would be opposed to such relationships, and wetalked about how we wished that wasn’t the case and how we hope their perspectiveschange on this at some point in the future. One of the people who came duringthe middle of the dinner was able to offer her perspective on actually being inan interracial relationship and how both of their families reacted. Herexperience was a positive one, but she also described how they had a couple ofnegative experiences out in public mainly because they were an interracialcouple. This conversation about racism connected back to the beginning of ourdinner where we identified a lack of love as being the root of most problemsAmerica is facing today.
It was wonderful just to be able tosit down and talk with people about the current state of life and everyone’sdifferent perspectives on certain issues. I also found it comforting that, eventhough there were differing points of view and opinions, we were still able tohave a relaxed and civil conversation. This honestly gave me hope for ourfuture. If I’m being honest, conversations about political issues have alwaysintimidated me because of how polarized things have become, but if everyconversation happened in the way this one did, I wouldn’t mind politicaldiscussions at all. The importance of love and compassion for one another isthe main takeaway I gained from our dinner. I will remember this experience andkeep it with me for a very long time. Also, I am so grateful for thefriendships I have made stronger through this experience and the knowledge Ihave gained about each of the girls who attended the dinner. All in all, I amincredibly thankful that I was able to be a part of this experience.