Klay’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

From Left to Right: Brentley, Ben, Blake, Missy

By Klay

I hosted my Kentucky Kitchen Table in Bowling Green, Kentucky at my dad’s house on November 14th. I was accompanied by my Dad (Ben), my step-mom (Missy), and my step-brother (Blake), and my younger brother (Brentley). Due to the fact that I work 6 nights per week, it was difficult to find a time that would work with my family, but we managed to squeeze in a time that would fit the five of us that attended. I first explained the project that I wanted to complete with my family and they were soon very excited to host me for dinner, as well as anticipating the conversation.

Introductions

My dad, Ben, is a local business owner in Bowling Green. He has owned two businesses over his life, and he specializes in textile care, such as carpet cleaning, rug cleaning, janitorial work, and fabric protection. He is 39 years old, and he grew up moving from state to state, finally ending up in Kentucky where he attended Russell County High School. He did not attend college, and he married my mom soon after he graduated high school. He moved to Ohio with my mom and moved back to Kentucky soon after to be a co-owner in a cleaning company, which led to him owning his own cleaning company. He married my step-mom Missy in 2014, and we have been blessed to have been welcomed as a part of her family, including my step-brother Blake.

My step-mom, Missy, has worked for the Medical Center since she was newly out of high school. She works for the corporate office area of Med Center Health, working directly under the CEO. She grew  up in Illinois, and moved to Bowling Green with her parents when her Dad moved for a job at the Corvette Plant with General Motors. She did not attend college but has risen in the ranks among Med Center Health due to her experience and determination. She is 49 years old, and has two sons, Tanner and Blake. She helps my Dad with administration work in his business due to her administration history and experience.

My step-brother, Blake, is 21 years old. He graduated from Greenwood High school here in Bowling Green after growing up in Alvaton, just outside the city-limits of Bowling Green. Blake has struggled throughout life, dealing with a progressive genetic disorder, Ataxia. He lives at home with my Dad and Missy, as he is unable to take care of himself. He struggles with walking due to the negative effects of ataxia on his balance. Blake is a fighter however, as his persistence is inspirational to those around him. When he turned 18, despite his dad’s wishes, he went and got a tattoo on his right bicep that reads, “Never Give Up.”

My younger brother Brentley is eight years old, and was mostly at the table for the food, as we told him we were going to be having a conversation for my class and that he did not have to say anything or do anything, but it was just what we were going to be doing. However, he was able to gather a general understanding of things that were important to his family members about society and citizenship, which I thought was a unique learning experience for him.

I, Klay, am a freshman at Western Kentucky University. I am majoring in chemistry with a minor in biology and a pre-medicine concentration, as it is my dream and career goal to attend medical school and become a surgeon. I was born in Glasgow, Kentucky, and I have lived with divorced parents since the age of two. My parents have both remarried twice, each on their third spouse, which I believe has taken a part in my trait of adaptability, as life has seemed to be ever changing as it has carried on. I work for my grandparents, who own a cleaning business that stretches across south central Kentucky. I clean a factory in Scottsville Monday through Friday, and I manage the cleaning of the Bowling Green Country Club Wednesday through Sunday. I attended South Warren High School until my junior year, when I moved to Glasgow High School, where I graduated in 2018.

Diversity was displayed at my Kentucky Kitchen Table by age, generations, life-experiences, differences in education, as well as differences in political views, differences in careers, and career goals of all in attendance. Due to my Dad and Missy marrying so recently, they do not necessarily share all of their views or many experiences that shaped the people that they are. Furthermore, Blake and I were raised in separate households, attended different high schools, and I am attending college while he is living at home.

The Meal and Discussion

I arrived soon just after leaving class on Wednesday to a home filled with food already prepared, including fried chicken, green beans, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, rolls, and mashed potatoes. Due to Missy having a red meat allergy, most of the meals that we have feature chicken or turkey as the main dish. Before the meal, I arranged the questions that I wanted to ask in the discussion, and I ran some of them by Dad, Missy, and Blake to give them an idea of what we would be discussing.

I began the discussion over the meal by asking the required question, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”, while also talking about how we deliberate in class and encouraging everyone to say what they thought and voice their opinions and feelings, as it was vital to the discussion.

My Dad, being a more dominant person who is usually first to offer an opinion, was the first to answer and really get the conversation going. He described that as a business owner, he felt that it was important to him to provide a service to the community, as he likes to feel that he is helping others and feeling like others come to him for something that he offers. He also talked about how he felt that an important part of citizenship was to have a job and work, providing for one’s self.

Missy, having a rather passive and laid-back temperament, agreed, as she has worked for the same company since she was very young. She added that she felt that it was important to her ideals of citizenship to be a hard-worker and a good influence to those around her. She continued, talking about the reason that she has stayed working with Med Center Health, and that loyalty and promotions were important to her.

Blake got his first words in, somewhat in contrary to what Dad and Missy were saying. He said that to him, working was not as important of a part in citizenship to him, but that he saw community service and giving back as the most important things to him. He talked about how he volunteers at Med Center Health once per week, and how it gives him a sense of purpose. He said that volunteering was another way that he like to inspire others, as he is not physically capable of doing much, but that he is still out in the community doing what he can.

I followed this question up by asking Brentley what he thought about what Dad, Missy, and Blake were saying, to which he provided a bit of comic relief, saying something like “I don’t want to have to work when I get older.”

After asking this required question, I asked a question which turned out to have short answers, “Do you know your neighbors? Why or why not?,” which was almost answered in unison by them, saying “Duh, we live next to Kevin, Chrissy, and DeeDee,” (my step-uncle, step-aunt, and great aunt).

The next and final question I asked was “What kind of community do you want to live in?”

Missy was the first to answer. Rather than talking about what kind of community she wanted to live in, she instead talked more about what she loved about Bowling Green and why she has continued to live here throughout her life since childhood. She talked about how she feels that Bowling Green is just beautiful, mentioning the view she has over all of downtown Bowling Green through her office window. She added that she felt that Bowling Green was the perfect size in her mind, how it has small town outskirts but still has a mall and several other aspects seen in larger cities.

Dad answered next, adding that for growth of his business, he wants to live in a bigger city such as Nashville. He said that the reason he has stayed in Bowling Green, however, was that he liked the presence of small town businesses that were locally owned, keeping the money in the community. He has always been a huge football fan, and he added that he does wish that Bowling Green was big enough to house an NFL team.

Blake was the last to answer, talking about how he didn’t want to live in a community at all, and that his dream was to live in a cabin in the woods so that he could hunt all the time because it’s his favorite thing to do. He said that he does like Bowling Green because his dad lives on the outskirts and has a farm that he can hunt on.

Things I Learned

We wrapped up the meal on this conversation, as I had to go to work afterwards and needed to get back to campus so that I could rest up for class the next morning. One thing that I learned from my Kentucky Kitchen Table was that the careers or lack there of among my family members were huge influences upon their values and what they felt was important to being a citizen. I also learned just how much volunteerism meant to Blake, as I don’t get to see him very much or ask him about what he does at his volunteer job at Med Center Health. I hadn’t realized how much of an inspiration he was to the people at Med Center Health and how good it made him feel to be making contributions to the community.

I felt that the conversation related to the central idea of deliberation in our class for many reasons. I noticed how it was similar to the layout of our classroom, though smaller, that we all circled up so that we could have the conversation, and that everyone could get their voice and opinion in without feeling judged or attacked. I also felt that it related to deliberation because everyone had different experiences and lives that led to their opinions and feelings, but that we could all agree on the importance of citizenship and doing something in the community, no matter what it was.

Furthermore, I felt that the conversation related to what I have learned in class from the reading Love Thy Neighbor by Peter Maas. As harsh as the reading is, it taught me that you never know what someone else has gone through, and not to judge others without knowing their story. Throughout the conversation, I saw a theme of everyone’s story being relevant to their opinions. The things that Blake has been through have kept him from being able to work a job, so working a job isn’t important to him, but helping others through his volunteering gives him a purpose and a feeling of citizenship. Dad and Missy get their ideas of citizenship from their careers and the ways they were raised, relating to the theme of Love Thy Neighbor in that they are a product of their story and their past.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this project, and I felt that it was my favorite thing that I’ve experienced in this class.

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