My Kentucky Kitchen Table Project took place in Lexington, Kentucky, my hometown. At the dinner was Cameron, Lexi, Jacob, Kaleb and myself. Cameron is 20 years old and the thing that makes him diverse to the group is that, one, he is the oldest and two, that he is of a minority ethnicity. His mother was born in Guatemala and moved to the U.S. about 30 years ago. He describes himself as very open, caring, and “opinionative to the max”. He said that he is never afraid to share his opinion (which is why we used to be such good friends). Lexi used to be my absolute best friend in high school, to the point of practically my sister. She describes herself as easy-going, very relaxed, very opinionated but more so than not quiet about sharing them. (She did agree to share them for this project and did with every part and tangent within the conversation.) She is 19 years old and from Versailles, Kentucky. One of the things that makes her diverse to the group is her sexual orientation. She asked that I not say more than that. She is very kind-hearted and it showed a lot during the discussion. Kaleb is very quiet. Even when talking one-on-one he isn’t one to lead the conversation. I actually had to ask Lexi to help describe him because he didn’t know how to explain himself when asked. All he said was that he was very quiet and that he seldom has strong opinions and even more seldom expressed them. He was very obviously engaged in the conversation but more so by listening than speaking. He would throw in a lot of “yeah same”s and “I agree”s. The thing that made him diverse to the group was that he was the youngest. He is 16 and still trying to form opinions. Kaleb and Lexi are siblings. Jacob is also quiet but more talkative than Kaleb. He described himself as a very introverted person who loves conspiracy theories and loves to question things and people, especially their reasonings for opinions. This was very much a part of our conversation. Jacob also described himself as being very compassionate. The thing that made Jacob diverse to the group was that he was home-schooled his entire life. I would describe myself similar to Lexi with the exception that I am not quiet about my opinions. If I have an opinion about something, I will say it with no filter more than likely. The thing that made me diverse to the group is I am the only one who is/plans/planned to attend(ing) college. Kaleb is not pictured but was there, he just showed up late and we forgot to take another picture with him because we were already in conversation..
Over the course of the meal we talked about a lot. Upon asking the required question, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following the laws, what citizenship mean to you?” I was honestly really surprised at the different responses. Cameron went first answering and essentially started talking about humanity and morals. Lexi picked up and so did the boys, and that kind of started the entire conversation. Overall we talked about what it really means to be living in the town and world we are today, and the different struggles everyone faces on both personal levels and just as groups of people. This meaning things we struggle with as people and how whole races face different struggles. We talked for a long time about morals and empathy. We went to the theme of love and how humans are connected in such a profound way but seem to ignore it. We talked about how there’s so many different ways people divide themselves completely unnecessarily, and how it should really change and how our society needs to change over all. We all are relatively young so I would have liked to have had someone older there, but it didn’t work out. Being so young but so aware really was amazing to me. We talked for almost an hour only about love and empathy and morals, which I found amazing. I’ve had similar conversations but never in such depth with such intellectual and deep thinking. I told them about how in class we talked about the different wicked problems in different moral questions and we spent a long time talking about those questions (incest, soul selling, etc.). All in all our entire conversation from start to end really wrapped around the theme of what it means to be a human and how we need to be better humans, as individuals and as a whole world really.
From this entire discussion I learned a lot about friends that I’ve had for a long time in ways that I didn’t know that I could learn about a person. When you start talking about morals and empathy and what it means to be a human, you learn a lot about a person. I learned a lot about myself as well as I took in all of these peoples’ perspectives and intertwined in with my own personal thoughts and feelings. To tie it into the reading, “The Intuitive Dog and Its Rational Tail,” I let my elephant really show and so did everyone else in the conversation. And it was so intriguing to me. I have a deep love for conversing about topics like this because it really shows a person who they are and shows other people how someone else can think about certain situations that are usually difficult to think about. There were a lot of silences when we were all just kind of thinking and reflecting upon one another. I looked through the list of optional questions and asked a couple referencing neighbors and learned that Lexi and Cameron both do not know anything about their neighbors. I asked why and if they wanted to change that. They both said they did not ever really have the opportunities to meet and talk to them but that if given the chance they probably would. Lexi works at the Humane Society and is an extreme animal lover. She has two dogs and said that she did make it a point to try and figure out which of her neighbors had pets as well. Jacob and Kaleb both live in Versailles; Jacob said he knew his neighbors but not on a personal level, but more so of an ‘I know they exist and have had those awkward waves and smiles while passing them or seeing them for short durations of time’ level.
All of the things that I learned during the dinner relate to what I learned in this class in the sense that I truly got new perspective. In this class, I was introduced to so many different new ways to think about things that I had never truly thought about: from what an actual deliberation is, to what a wicked problem is, to education and patience, to empathy and how to be a better human. I think the one reading that truly stuck with me the most, and that I actually referenced in my dinner at one point, was “To Hell with Good Intentions,” by Ivan Illich. I’m not really sure why, but the whole theme of trying to do something for someone without even truly talking to them, just really blew my mind and made me reflect a lot. I’m one to go out of my way to help someone out, and so are Lexi and Jacob, so they were able to relate. When I told them about this reading, they were both very quiet at first. Lexi deals with and works with volunteers and is involved with volunteering a lot through her work, so she actually really understood the reading and very much so backed it up based on a very general overview I gave of it; we briefly talked about volunteerism and how it should be a bigger part of society and communities and how more people should get involved in that type of work. It’s a great way to make connections, it’s a great way to learn new things and see different types of people. Also with volunteering you can learn a lot about yourself and things you like and dislike and could potentially make a living out of. The central idea of the classes that we touched on the most was how can we live better lives, especially in relation to others.
All in all, having this discussion with these people and after taking this class, I have an entirely new perspective on a lot of things and I am extremely grateful that I have these new perspectives and ways of thinking.