My Kentucky kitchen table meal took place on Wednesday November 7th, 2018. The dinner was hosted at my classmate, Rheanna’s apartment in Bowling Green, Kentucky. There was a total of five people in attendance for the meal. Rheanna invited two people that she knew, and I invited my brother to join us for the meal and discussion. My brother and I arrived at the apartment shortly before Rheanna got off work. My brother, Daniel, works two jobs and did not go to college; he works for Bimbo Bakeries and Papa John’s here in Bowling Green. Though our parents were both born and raised in Bowling Green for most of their lives, my brother and I are originally from Columbia, Tennessee and moved to Kentucky a little over five years ago. When we moved here, my brother had already graduated high school, but I was still in eighth grade. I am currently a freshman in college, and I am focusing on learning multiple different languages including: Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, and French. My friend Rheanna is also in my Honors 251 class. We just met this year and have been working together on another major assignment for the class. She can speak Japanese and lived in Japan for almost an entire year. She is currently a senior in college and is working on learning Korean in hopes to live there for a while. Jessica, the first of Rheanna’s guests to show up, is a college student majoring in Glacier caves and their interactions with volcanoes; she is a vegetarian, and cares deeply about the environment which are things she and I share in common. Corrina was Rheanna’s other guest that attended our dinner; she and Rheanna are roommates sharing the apartment. Corrina, like my brother, did not go to college and also has two jobs as well. She is working at Macy’s in Tennessee, and she is also an independent distributor at Advocare which is a health and wellness company. Each of us came from very different backgrounds and have our own individual ideas, religious beliefs, interests, and goals for our futures.
For the dinner, Rheanna and I agreed that it would be more polite for us to provide the food for our guests. Because my brother works at Papa John’s, we brought two pizzas for the main dish; due to the dietary restrictions that both Jessica and I share, we made sure that one of the pizzas we brought was a vegetarian friendly Hawaiian pizza and the other was half cheese and half pepperoni. For deserts, I brought some pay de piña which are little, Mexican style pineapple pies and some of my special recipe, homemade banana bread. Rheanna baked some brownies and provided all of the drinks and dishes.
Before we arranged the dinner, Rheanna and I selected a few questions in addition to the required question to guide our discussion and keep the conversation going. After we made our plates and were all situated around the table, we began our discussion. The first thing we asked was the required question of what citizenship meant to each of our guests. Each of them gave different responses, but agreed with what the others had said. Jessica defined citizenship as the idea that you are now a part of a group of people in your country, and she also said she believed it was the balance between having your freedoms and a sense of security as benefits of being a part of the country. Corrina said that she agreed, but also believed that it includes others freedoms such as buying and owning a house and the responsibility of being a part of what makes America great. Daniel stated that his idea of citizenship was that everyone living in a country together should all try to get along to make the world even just a little bit better each day. He said that he believes if you see a fellow citizen in distress, you should help them out. Before asking our next question, Rheanna gave the group a general definition of a deliberation to ensure that the discussion did not get out of hand or possibly turn into an argument. Because of their definitions, I decided to add in another question regarding a topic we had discussed in class. I decided to ask them their thoughts on President Trump wanting to use executive order to end birthright citizenship which is granted by the fourteenth amendment in the United States Constitution to all people born or naturalized in the United States. Each person had very different reasoning behind their answer, but we each agreed that he should not change the birthrights that have been granted to us by the constitution and that America should take notes from other countries on our tolerance of immigration. The next question we asked was what each person believed were the best things about our world today. Daniel said that he liked the idea of correctional institutions that allow people a second chance, and he is fascinated by our world’s advancement in medical research and technological breakthroughs. Corrina appreciated the fact that we are able to move up in the socio-economic system through our hard work and the existence of a free-market economy. Jessica’s favorite part of our world was the popularization of the idea of neolocalism where people have a genuine appreciation for sourcing locally to improve their economies. Rheanna and I both had a similar response. She said that the best part of our world today is the interconnectedness we have with other cultures which allows us to have awareness of global issues. I said that I enjoy the fact that our interconnectedness allows for a diversity of people to bring different perspectives on issues that will allow for multiple ideas to be presented to find the most efficient means of solving our problems and the problems faced by others. Next we asked whether they believed we had any obligations to other people in our country. There was a unanimous agreement that everyone should help others, use our resources most efficiently, and share what we have with those in need especially the homeless, veterans, and people who are not likely to find any other source of assistance. During this section of discussion, we included our thoughts on the roles that sympathy and empathy both play on these moral obligations which is another topic that we have discussed in class. Then we asked if the people present ever had meals like this around the table with family and neighbors, and how they felt about them. Everybody there had been a part of meals like this before, and they each enjoyed the moments as a time to connect with others and talk about their days. Rheanna, Daniel, and I all mentioned that it was more typical to have meals like this when we were younger, but as we grew up, our families stopped having many sit down meals and as a result, we all slowly drifted apart. After that, we asked if they had ever had a conversation with someone from a very different background than themselves. Everybody had been a part of a conversation with people of different faiths, backgrounds, ethnicities, etc., and everyone agreed that it was an effective way to learn more about other cultures, dismantle previously held stereotypes, and gain a tolerance for people who are different than you and/or people you are used to being around. The last thing we asked was about which social issues were closest to their hearts. Many topics were brought up including: animal rights, the environment, abortion, stereotypes, and racism. It was interesting to see the different opinions that each person in our group had regarding each of the issues.
This has been one of my favorite assignments that I have participated in during my first semester on a college campus. I rarely have time to have deep discussions like that, so being able to sit down with a small group of people and talk about our opinions on things going on in the world around us helped me to gain a better understanding of how others view and deal with problems that are very prevalent in our community, country, and world today. I think my favorite part of this assignment was the fact that we each got to know each other, and, despite it being the first time that many of us had ever met, we were able to have a bonding experience and develop a closeness to one another through conversation. One of the most relatable things said during our meal was that this experience was enjoyable, because we weren’t on our phones which allowed us to have a more personal, face-to-face interaction where we could enjoy the company and respond to one another in an orderly manner. This experience reminded me of a section of a book I read in AP literature during high school; the summer before my senior year, we were assigned How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster as our summer reading. One of Foster’s archetypes was communion which was described as being one of the most important sections in a story if included, because it shows the connections between the characters and can further the development of relationships between the people who take part in it. In the start of our communion, we did not know much about one another, but by the end of the meal, we had all become comfortable with one another and developed new friendships with those who attended. We found ourselves making jokes and sharing personal thoughts with one another that we would have never been able to had we not been sitting around the same table. This experience also reminded me of one of my favorite articles that we have read in Honors 251. How We Talk Matters was an article that we read in the beginning of the year, and during our meal, the central theme of the article laid heavy on my mind. The article discusses how the disparity between the problems we are facing today and what we are doing to solve these problems can be overcome by not only speaking to others about the issues, but also by really listening to what others have to say and understanding their ideas to come up with a reasonable solution. We need to have more conversations in which we spend a greater amount of time listening to what others might have to say about the topic instead of just dismissing their opinions because they may be different than us. We can learn more from each other if we take the time to have a thoughtful discussion rather than a heated argument, and I believe that this assignment was a great way of practicing this method of deliberation and discussion to learn more about others and their unique stance on certain issues that affect our everyday lives. If I could, I would participate in more face-to-face, group dinners like this, because even being an antisocial person, I enjoyed being in an environment focused on intelligent, personal conversation as opposed to the everyday small-talk or face-to-screen conversation that is more prevalent in the world today.