My Kentucky Kitchen Table project took place in Owensboro, Kentucky on November 16th. I am from Marshall County, however my dads entire family is from Owensboro. I invited both my grandparents, a boy from their church, my Aunt Robin, and then her daughter which is the youngest of all the cousins. My Pop (grandfather) is 77 years old and I have realized over the years that he is one of the most opinionated people I have had the privilege of knowing. Of all the people at the table, he had experienced the most and was eager to share his stories and thoughts that went along with the questions I asked. He is a retired principal from one of the high schools in the area. My Mimi (grandmother) is 75 years old and works part time at a packaging factory just to have something the keep her busy. She always likes to see the best in people and during this project she kept quiet during many of the controversial conversations we had. Aunt Robin is 51 years old and works as an OBGYN at one of the hospitals in Owensboro. She loves to get in heated discussions and it is rare if she ever does not have something to say. The boy from their church goes by Kaleb, he is 20 years old and is currently working full time at Menards while taking some classes at the local community college. He also remained quiet for most of the dinner unless I asked him a question directly. The last person at the table was my cousin, Karsen. She is 13 years old, in her second year of middle school, and brought a totally different view point to the table. Although she is young, she understood much of what we discussed and loved to give her thoughts any time she had any.
I started with the prompted question of what being a citizen meant to them. My Pop was the first to answer and he did so by talking about the different freedoms he has. He explained to me how he often takes his life for granted and all the things that just come so easily to him such as getting an education, starting a career, having a family and much more. He goes on to talk about how he feels entitled to many of the things he has because he felt as if he had earned them and deserved them. But when he steps back and thought about it, he had been given so many of the things that made him the citizen and person he is. My Mimi related the question to her family. She said that as a citizen and as a mother it was her job to raise a family of good citizens and people. It is like a spiral effect. Without her parents raising her right, then she could not raise her kids right, who would then have not raised me right. She talked about how it was her job to contribute to the next generation of responsible citizens. My Aunt said she had thought about it a lot and that she agreed with my Mimi’s take on it but did not think it always turned out that way because kids will go on to do their own thing and make their own decisions and it was not their fault as mothers if their children did not make the right choices. She thought her citizenship had to do with her always voicing her opinion, making those around her aware of things going on in the community and always trying to make our way towards solutions for the things that are wrong in our world.
When my aunt started discussing this, my immediate thought was deliberation. I told her how we had been having these in the class I was doing this project over, where we would discuss different social issues as a group and try to think of ways to fix the problem. I told her how I loved hearing everyone’s ideas and thoughts when we do this in class but was not sure if it was a feasible goal in the real world. My Pop said it was something he never thought would work, even though the idea sounded pretty. That people in the real world are too hard headed to sit down and discuss issues with people they may not agree with. So I asked him if he would, if given the opportunity, would he actually listen to what others had to say on hot topics such as gun control or homelessness if he did not agree with the people people he was talking to. It took him a minute to think about it and he finally said I do not know. He said he would like to think that he would but he feels like he would close off when speaking about things he was very passionate about such as gun control.
I feel like this conversation with my Pop also relates to our central question of how we can live better together. It is through understanding our strengths and weaknesses that we can accomplish this goal. Understanding that each person is in some way different from us and that we hold different ideas and that is okay. Once we do this we can answer one of the other central questions of how we can solve problems. Solving the big problems in the world is not going to happen overnight but all the people at the table agreed it is something that can only be done if we first resolve the issues we have with one another.
We then changed the subject at the table and discussed some of the disconnects between generations and about how that causes many of the issues in our society today. My Mimi and Pop both talked about how when they were younger they ate breakfast and dinner every day with their families. They said this was something that was never up for discussion it was just expected. My Aunt, who is their daughter, said she experienced many of the same rules but it did not seem to be as strictly enforced as it was with my grandparents. Kaleb and I, both from the same generation, talked about how we ate dinner at the table with our families only when it was convenient for everyone. Kaleb said most of his childhood was crowded with sports and other extracurricular activities that made it almost impossible to sit down with the entire family and have dinner. I experienced many of the same things and recalled that having dinner as a family at the table was seen as a special thing that had to be planned or it rarely actually happened. My cousin Karsen said most of the time she ate dinner in front of the TV with her parents or sometimes even in her room alone. Her idea of family dinners were the ones she experienced during holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was during this conversation that I realized the variety I had sitting at the table in front of me. I asked them if they thought this played a role in why there was not much public discussion today. My Aunt Robin said she thought so, that since conversation was lacking in homes it had also caused conversation in society to dwindle as well. My Mimi talked about how she felt as if it had become a chore to make conversations with people and that it had not always been that way.
I started to wonder if technology also might play a role in this disconnect between generations. I was hesitant to ask what their thoughts on it were because I already knew my Pop’s opinion on technology. I was surprised when my younger cousin was the first to answer. She said she hated and loved her phone. Karsen said she was always able to reach anyone at any moment but it also was the thing that kept her inside on a pretty day or was the reason she was sad she had missed out on someones birthday party. My Mimi said this was something she had never experienced and even though she now had an iphone, Mimi said she hardly used it for anything other than returning phone calls or keeping in contact with her kids.
This conversation reminded me of the question how can we have more say over our own lives? I think more often than not we allow our phones and computers to get in the way of the things we should actually be focussed on, things we would not be concerned about if we did not have a screen displaying them every second of every day. Things have become too easy to access and so it takes away the importance of waiting on knowledge.
Overall, I learned many different things through several different perspectives during my Kentucky Kitchen Table project. My grandparents were more passionate than Kaleb and I in some areas and we were more passionate than them in others. In the end, I was glad to be able to sit down and discuss things that really matter with my family and new friend.