My Kentucky Kitchen Table was completed on November 10, 2018, in Louisville, Kentucky, my hometown. I invited four of my neighbors- Martha, Sandy, Gayle, and Jackie. My mom, Shannon, was also in attendance. I have lived in the same neighborhood in the same house for my entire life because of this over the years the neighborhood has changed and I have gotten multiple new neighbors. So, when I told my mom about this assignment we thought it would be a perfect way to get to know our neighbors that had moved in recently or who we just had not really interacted with much before.
Martha has been my across-the-street neighbor for my whole life. We are very close neighbors and even exchange Christmas gifts every year. She is a retired high school teacher and is married. She never had children. I wouldn’t consider her one of the “strangers” in my project, but a friend attending.
Sandy moved in three houses down across the street from me about a year ago. She is a single woman who doesn’t have any human children. I say human children because her miniature poodle Lola is her child. This is how my family met Sandy when we, last spring, got a new puppy ironically enough also named Lola. Her Lola and our Lola are best friends and have play dates frequently. I have had brief, small talk conversations with Sandy, but I do not feel I know her well because of the fact that my mom became friends with her while I was at school.
Gayle I had never met before this dinner. I had only seen her briefly in her yard. She lives two houses down from me, and I did not even know her name was Gayle until Martha suggested we invite her as well. She is divorced with grown children and is an accountant.
Jackie is married with two sons. Her sons are three and five years old. She is a nurse and her and my mom discovered that they actually work on opposite sides of the same hospital. I had never interacted with Jackie more than waving to her when she and her sons were playing outside.
Aside from my mom, I had not really explained why we were having this dinner beside saying I needed to for a class. So, we started with some small talk and got to know each other better during a small “cocktail hour” where we had cheese and crackers and wine for the adults. During this time, I stayed away from the questions on the assignment for the time being. I learned that Sandy had been married at one time a long time ago, but they have now been divorced for many years. She also explained more about her job and that she travels a lot because she helps open hotels in many different areas. Gayle mentioned that she loves going to the movies which is something I also love to do. So, we chatted about current movies for a while. Jackie talked about her kids and how they were enjoying their school and how her younger son Jack, still wanted to put on his Halloween costume at least once a week. It was nice to at least know a little about the people I live so close to.
After this, we moved into theDining Room and started our meal which is when I started describing the class and its objectives and then I decided to start with a buffer question so they could get a feel for what this discussion would be like before I asked the main citizen question. I decided to ask “Did you ever have meals around the table with your family or neighbors growing up? And did you like that?” I imputed my answer first so my guests would feel comfortable. “I almost always ate with my family around a kitchen table. I always enjoyed it and while we did watch TV most nights we always had to share our favorite thing that happened to us that day before the TV could be turned on. It could share something big or small, but this was a small way that my family connected with each other about the parts of our days that we were apart.” My mom answered next saying she lived across the street from her best friend growing up so they would have dinner at each other’s houses frequently and she enjoyed it very much because it felt like she was a part of two families. Martha, Gayle, and Sandy said about the same idea. They said they also ate regularly with their families and they found it was a way to reconnect with each other at the end of the day. Jackie said that her family did eat together but they did not normally eat around the table but in front of the TV in the living room. She said she thinks she would have enjoyed the intimate family time of being around an actual table. She did like how when they did eat at the table all together it felt special, and she liked how exciting it was to eat a formal meal together,
Now that everyone had an idea ofhow this discussion would kind of go, I then asked: “Beyond voting, payingtaxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” They were alittle stumped at first, but then Sandy answered that it is getting involved inthe world around us. She also said, “As a citizen, you have human rightsand a voice in important international matters. We need to use our citizenshipto advocate for the big issues in our world today. We have rights and we needto use them.” Martha had a more small idea of citizenship. As citizens weshould, Martha thought, try to contribute what we can to the community we are currently inbecause first and foremost we are citizens of the Highlands then Louisvillethan Kentucky then the United States and then the world. She thought we need towork from the inside out. We needed to work on our community and fix thedeep-rooted problems there first. Once these two opposite views were presentedthe other members at the table kind of decided to stand on one side or theother. Jackie and my mom views fell closer to the small community effort iswhat citizenship entailed. Gayle, however, fell more with Sandy’s view ofcitizenship involving big actions. They talked about how it was important to bevocal about what we agreed with that our government was doing, but also bevocal about what we did not agree with, and we should try to take actions tofix, or at least make better, what we did not agree with.
Since the conversation then shifted to social issues, I decided to ask what social issue is closest to their hearts and why? My whole group was women so women’s rights came up quickly and all guests agreed that this was one of the issues closest to their hearts. They felt that this is an issue that affected both their views of citizenship.Women’s rights and sexism is an issue we all had faced in our community and have seen in the media the sexism other women are experiencing around the world. This question seemed to reinforce to the group the idea that social issues have a close connection to being a citizen and our duties of citizenship go beyond voting and paying taxes because we are citizens we have a duty to respond and fight these issues we are passionate about and hold in our hearts.
I learned from this dinner that it is good to discuss things with strangers even if it may make you uncomfortable or nervous.I was very nervous to host this dinner, hints why I waited to the last possible weekend to complete it. It actually was a very positive experience and I am glad I decided to do it with my actual geographic neighbors. The next day I saw Gayle outside and could actually go up to her, thank her again, and have a personal conversation instead of just doing a courtesy wave from a distance. I learned not only their names but also more about their beliefs and passions.This conversation showed me that what the article “How We Talk Matters” was right and how we talk really does matter. It may seem like sometimes that talking does not do much in the big picture context, but if it does nothing else it brings you closer to the people around you. I think that people coming together and finding similarities and embracing each other’s differences is an important aspect of citizenship. One definition of being a citizen is being a member of a community. I think that when you have connections to people in the community around you you become more passionate about helping your community and in turn helping the world