I had my Kentucky Kitchen table on November 12, a little bit later than I was supposed to due to the Minton Mold Move Out. It took place at my boyfriend’s mom’s house in Franklin, KY just 30 minutes down 31W. Even though my Kentucky Kitchen Table was belated, I still go to have a homemade dinner with insightful conversation on citizenship through the eyes of people other than myself. I think that a homemade meal around a diner table is something I took for granted before college, because for the last few months I have been eating fast food in an overcrowded cafeteria with dime a dozen conversations about projects, exams, or university events. This project put into perspective the importance of a traditional meal around a dinner table uninterrupted by text messages or snapchats. I decided to put in place a rule that banned phones from the table so that there wouldn’t be any distraction from the conversation, and I think that it aided in focus while we were talking.
Sam is my 19-year-old boyfriend of almost 4 years now, has one sister, and divorced parents. He attends the University of Alabama in Huntsville studying Aerospace Engineering. What he does is rocket science. Not in the joke form. I asked each person around the table how they would want to be described in three words. Sam’s are as follows: chill, old man, and cute. I guess I’m dating a cute old man.
Also, in attendance was Sam’s mom, Kelly. She is 48 years old and just finished chemotherapy for breast cancer. She has lived in Franklin for basically her whole life and works at the family business, B&B tire, in Bowling Green. Kelly’s three words were caring, strong, and Christian.
The next guest is David, Kelly’s boyfriend. He was Amish until he was 18 and then left to start his own construction business, Miller builders. He and Kelly met through their church, Church of Christ. I don’t know David that well. In fact, I just learned that he was once Amish while talking at the table about how they wanted to be described. The words he picked were hard-working, Christian, and humble.
David’s daughter, Hannah, was also in attendance and is a nursing major here at WKU. She commutes from home in Glasgow, KY where she has been for 14 years now and is a freshman. She was adopted from Romania by David and came to America 4 years old. I have only met Hannah once before my Kentucky Kitchen Table, so I really didn’t know her very well. Hannah’s words
My last two guests were Abby (Sam’s sister and Kelly’s daughter) and Lula, Kelly’s miniature poodle. Abby is 21 years old and works at B&B tire. Abby describes herself as determined, hard headed, and caring. She has always lived in Franklin and just moved to Bowling Green six months ago. Lula would just describe herself as hungry, tired, and cuddly.
Overall, I think I had a pretty diverse group of people in attendance. Conservative and Liberal opinion different religious backgrounds, and different cultural backgrounds. I think that this was essential to the diverse answers that I received when having a conversation about citizenship. One thing that we all had in common, though, was the fact that we all relate our citizenship to small towns.
When I first asked the question “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” I could tell that they weren’t expecting such a hard question. It took a few moments for anyone to speak up but soon enough, Kelly did. She said that citizenship, to her, meant belonging to something that is bigger than yourself. I thought that this answer was insightful and true. It made me think that there is always somewhere for you to belong. Sam said that citizenship to him means learning and looking at our history and trying to find ways to make it better for ourselves and other citizens. I think that these two answers stuck out the most to me because it relates to two of our central questions of the class: how can we solve problems and how can we live better together?
The next question that I asked at the table was “What is the thing you love most about living where you do?”. I picked this question because the people that are from Franklin/have a connection to Franklin take a lot of pride in it because is such a small, but mighty, community. Abby answered quickly and she talked about how when her best friend from high school died, the whole community supported each other in their time of grieving. She emphasized how instant the feeling of support was. I can attest to this– there is no sense of anonymity in Franklin. Which is both a blessing and a curse, as Sam said. David had an interesting perspective on this question. He said that when he got out of the Amish, he had all of this freedom that was overwhelming at first. But even though it was overwhelming, it is what makes “America feel American”- this sense of opportunity. He also talked about how he loves the opportunities he has as a self-employed, small business owner and how Glasgow and the surrounding areas support him. I chose this question because I feel a special feeling of citizenship to Franklin and recently, WKU. Hannah talked about her connection to WKU as well. She said that even though she is a commuter, she feels like she is a citizen to WKU. I think that this question was essential to this project because I feel like a lot of the things, we discuss in class are things that we don’t do well as citizens, and this question is a more positive way of looking at our citizenship in the United States, colleges, and small towns. This question relates to the “Love Thy Neighbor” reading to me because it has similar themes of how we should involve ourselves with those around us that need help. It is easy to think to ourselves “Well it’s not my family, so why should I concern myself with it?”, but that kind of thinking is what extends problems for years and years to come. But if we were all to feel the same way about our responsibility to other people and were to act on it, I think that we could make a real change in our society and as citizens.
The next question I asked was if they thought they had an obligation to the other people in our community or country. They all had a unanimous decision- yes. They all had the same answer and it was that we all have a responsibility to be kind to each other. Kelly is also very involved with habitat for humanity and she says that that is one of the main reasons why she stays involved with it- because she believes that every person should have a warm and dry place to sleep every night. This idea very directly relates to a central question of the course- how can we help others have more say over their lives and how can we live better together. Sam brought up an interesting point about how when we pay taxes, we are helping other people afford housing, food, and clothes for them and their children. Kindness and respect for other’s needs seems to be the overarching theme here. While we were talking about this, we went on a tangent about the effect that social media has on kindness and their idea of citizenship. We all agreed that due to the anonymity of social media, there seems to be a lack of respect to other people. Even though we have increased communication with each other due to social media, we have somewhat lost the ability to relate face to face. We then started to talk about how, especially when elections come around, we forget how to be civil and talk about politics. Social media allows for a platform to say whatever you want on the topic. So even though we have a platform to speak up for what is important, the anonymity causes ugly conversation. When we were talking about this, it reminded me of our deliberations and how important it is to talk in person about social and political issues.
I learned that even though people come from different backgrounds, there are similar themes throughout the answers here. A lot of it boils down to just wanting to be better. Better people, a better society, a better citizen. We related to all the central questions while eating banana pudding that day. I thought it was interesting that almost all the answers related to at least one of these questions, and they didn’t even know about them beforehand. They stretch to all areas of life, to all backgrounds, to all people.
Overall, I think I learned a lot from this assignment. I loved getting to hear from all of the different perspectives and backgrounds and compare them to my own. I think it adds sincerity to the overarching themes of citizenship when multiple opinions from differing backgrounds participate in the discussion. This has been my favorite assignment of the year and I think that I will remember back to this dining room table and to these discussions often. Even though I have known some of these people in the picture for a very long time, I still learned something new about each and every one of them. It’s amazing what can happen at a Kentucky Kitchen Table.