Emma’s KKT

By Emma

I went home to Louisville, Kentucky to host my Kentucky Kitchen Table Dinner. I invited my dad, David, sister, Sarah, brother, Andrew, and our neighbors Caroline and Sean. My dad is a dentist and leans more conservative. My sister is a nurse and considers herself an independent. My brother is a senior at the University of Louisville and is also conservative like my father. Our two neighbors, Caroline and Sean are more left sided and liberal. I tried to get a demographic of different views and perspectives to broaden the discussion.

I opened the discussion with asking all the members of the dinner to be respectful of everyone’s input and opinions. Sometimes family and friend discussions can get tense and carried off topic.

I began the first question by asking the required question, “Beyond voting, paying taxes and following law, what does citizenship mean to you?” Caroline was the first to jump in and replied with, “Everyone should bring something to the table to their community. It can be simple or small, big or inspiring. Contribution to your community and those around you is important as a citizen.” Andrew added onto the conversation, “I believe citizenship means serving your community on all scales.” The table discussion came to a consensus that contribution to one’s community whether it be voting, charity, one’s occupation, etc. is important regarding citizenship. We conversed that whatever one is motivated and inspired by should use that as a way to feed one’s environment and those around him or her.

I next lead the discussion with the question, “How do you think your job relates to your role as a citizen?” Sean commented and replied, “As an owner of a company, I feel that I am employing people and making their lives better. My company is big on including immigrants and connecting with charities such as Catholic Charities. Working with immigrants, I have learned how their work ethic is so vigilant and that is something as Americans that we can learn from. However, sometimes I do get distracted and involved in my own work that I forget that I do have a purpose as a citizen and to serve others within my job.” My sister, Sarah, added on, “As a nurse, I experience intense, critical medical situations where I am called to assistance. I think my job relates to my role as a citizen because I work to help and save lives every day. I work with families of patients admitted and console them in times of crisis. My job is stressful, but at the end of the day, I am happy to be contributing to peoples’ lives.” The table discussion agreed that having one’s job connect to one’s role as a citizen can be challenging at times. Many jobs in society to not work to serve others as a purpose of charity. However, we agreed that with the occupations all around the world, there is always room to be thoughtful in the way people go about their business. Even if it is as simple as making a work environment comfortable and friendly to all employees, that could be a way to be a way to relate a job to citizenship. Even better, people can get involved in charities and hands-on service within the field of their work.

The next question relates to the one above, “Do you see your job as serving a greater purpose?” My sister commented again on how her role as a nurse is self-explanatory in serving a greater purpose within the medical field. Caroline, who is in Graduate School for her master’s in psychology replied, “I chose this field to work with children and adolescents. I have always been interested in working with those from broken families and be an aid for them. I also want to work with the families as a whole who are struggling to help get to the root of the issues that continue to contribute to the cycle of family brokenness and abuse. I hope to bring a little light to their lives and help them understand that things can get better. I think my occupation serves a greater purpose by guiding, listening, and being there for those in need.” People intend for their jobs to have a greater purpose, but that is not always the case. Economic stability can be a big reason as to why people choose the professions they do. Although not all jobs serve a greater purpose, that does not mean one cannot be the best citizen he or she can.

Later in the table discussion, I told them about the LGBTQ+ deliberation I attended with my class. I told them about how it was about whether religious rights are accepted as to a way of discrimination of those with different sexual orientations. In addition, I told them about the fairness ordinance. I then asked the question, “Does your religious or spiritual identity relate to how you think we should treat other people?” Remaining on the topic of the LGBTQ+ community, my dad replied, “Growing up Catholic, homosexual people were not very accepted. It was rare to really know anyone homosexual—or at least homosexual people being ‘out.’ However, it was very interesting to see how socially accepting society became and still is becoming over the years. Being 53, I have noticed how generational views are regarding this issue.” The table conversation continued to discuss how religion connects to how people treat others. We agreed that it is easy to forget about religious values in treatment of others. Religious values do not always coincide with the actions of people.

The theme within the table discussion I found was individualism. Many topics referred to how a single individual decides to live his or her life and the values they choose to carry. We ended the table discussion talking about humans have intrinsic qualities that lead them to make the decisions they do. We conversed about how all actions relate to one’s own morals and what he or she believes is right. Because humans are inherent to the way they think, it is important for society to come together and listen to one another to come to consensuses on conflicts. Individuals will choose to make their own choices regardless of what may be right.

The Kentucky Kitchen Table Discussion taught me that it is important to have conversations like these with those in your community. I learned a lot about my family and neighbors. I learned the significance of listening to the thoughts and opinions of others that broadened my views. This discussion was very insightful to the idea that working with your community starts with simple conversations as these.

This talk connects with our course because I kept thinking about the central question, “How can we solve problems?” Solving problems begins with discussion and the sharing of ideas and opinions. This reminded me of the reading “How We Talk Matters” by Keith Melville. When discussing controversial issues or sensitive topics that have a broad range of opinions, it is crucial to be thoughtful of how we speak to one another. Keeping an open mind, listening, taking into consideration someone else’s position is all important when solving problems. Surprisingly, my table did a decent job of listening and understanding one another when sharing. The table conversation validated the claim in Melville’s piece that the way we talk truly does matter.


Becca’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Becca

My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place in Bowling Green, Kentucky on March 25, 2019. My friend, Kelsi, was so kind and let me use her beautiful home to host the dinner. It proved to be incredibly difficult to get enough people to come, because most people anymore are too busy to make time for a sit-down, home-cooked meal together. Luckily, Kelsi invited a friend and her husband, both of whom I did not know very well. I ended up really enjoying this assignment, because I truly love the conversations that can develop when people are sharing food, and I enjoyed being able to host friends with unique personalities, thoughts, and opinions.

Kelsi’s friend, Callie, is in the bottom left hand corner of the picture. She works as a Christian Student Fellowship staff leader, and she is currently a senior at Western Kentucky University. She enjoys being outdoors and being with friends. Just to the right of Callie is Kelsi’s husband, Nathan. He also works at CSF, and is a landlord for Mimosa apartments. He brought lots of diversity to the table through his perspective as a boy and being full of energy. Next, is my roommate, Emmy. She is a student at WKU, and she loves to listen to music and play piano. She tends to be more on the quiet side, but her opinions introduced some new discussions to the table. Following Emmy is Liz, who is a forensic psychology and criminology major at WKU. Liz expressed many well-reasoned thoughts and opinions that really pushed the table to think deeply about issues. To the right of Liz is Kelsi. She works as a CSF staff leader. Her favorite things include photography, cooking, and talking to people. Beside Kelsi is Emmi. She helped with hosting the Kentucky Kitchen Table. Last in the picture is Haleigh. Haleigh is another freshman at WKU who loves to read and watch UK basketball. I am taking the picture. My name is Becca, and I am a freshman exercise science student at WKU with dreams of becoming a physical therapist. I am from Lexington, love my family, love hiking, and really enjoy spending time with my friends.

The making of the meal was really special to me. I brought ingredients to make a spaghetti dinner, so we all piled into the kitchen to cook the pasta and organize the sides onto plates. I think having a home-cooked meal was really important when it came to discussing community and citizenship.

The first question we discussed was “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” This question threw a curveball at Nathan, because his first reaction involved giving money to the government. Kelsi implied that being a citizen includes participation. It is possible to participate without merely voting, paying taxes, and following laws. It can also be becoming educated on issues. We used our table itself as a metaphor for citizenship because we actively participated in the conversation, and we even questioned Nathan’s citizenship when he left the table because it comprised his ability to participate in the conversation. Liz mentioned how participation as a citizen arises out of caring for your community and practicing activism. Everyone pretty much agreed that citizenship is a sense of belonging.

Following that question, we answered the question, “Do you know your neighbors?” This really livened the conversation because it stepped on the toes of every single person at the table, especially Nathan and Kelsi. They told us how they have been living in their house for six months now, and they still do not know their neighbors. They are not happy with that fact because their jobs are very relational, but sometimes when they come home, they forget to be a citizen in their neighborhood. Since Emmy and I are roommates, we discussed how we have some very interesting neighbors, but we don’t know any of them very well. Emmi and Liz mentioned the tough issue of the Minton shutdown and how that affected her ability to meet her neighbors. All of the freshmen at the table are now in different residence halls, and it is difficult to get to know neighbors that have already established themselves there. I learned that Nathan went to the same neighborhood Kroger in Lexington that I did. It was really interesting how he talked about riding his bike with neighborhood friends to go a get coffee from there. My childhood was nothing like that, and it was interesting to discover how today’s society does not value community involvement like it used to. In response to our favorite thing about living where we do, the table mostly threw out answers like having a bathroom and having space to host friends. We continued to talk about neighborly love by sharing what advice we would give our neighbors. For Emmi and I it was to turn the music down a little. Kelsi and Nathan just wanted a chance to meet their neighbors, so the table gave them ideas such as have a sweet tea stand to start up some conversations.

My favorite question that we talked about was “Who do you want to be?” Nathan immediately said he wanted to be a dog, because they are loyal and good. Kelsi said she want to look more like Jesus. Liz mentioned how she wants to be someone that makes changes and is not hypocritical. Callie profoundly said how she wants to actively live out what she preaches, which Nathan summed up very well as “Talk the talk, and walk the walk.” Everyone at the table strongly agreed that their religious and spiritual identity relate to how they see themselves as a citizen.

The ideas they shared reminded me of Jane Adams in “The Snare of Preparation.” In this article, Jane Adams talks about how she spent so much time preparing to help people that it took away from her being able to help people. Their idea is also very similar to what is discussed in Michael Pollens’ “Why Bother?” because it suggests the importance of practicing what you preach.

I learned how it is difficult for people in every walk of life to participate as a citizen, because while they may be well-intentioned, today’s society is not the best for forming community relationships and practicing citizenship.

Emmi’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Emmi

I held my Kentucky Kitchen Table in Bowling Green, Kentucky on March 25th, 2019. Eight people, including myself, sat down to a spaghetti dinner full of great conversation to come. Becca, another honors student, and I held our KKT together and invited our roommates, Emmy and Liz, acquaintances, Callie and Haleigh, and, of course, the lovely and gracious hosts of the home, Kelsi and Nathan. While all of us are Christians, everyone brought different experiences to the table.

Nathan and Kelsi are a married, non-college couple. Nathan grew up in Lexington and went to WKU where he met Kelsi; he is now a pastor at the Christian Student Fellowship (CSF). Kelsi grew up just outside of Cincinnati and moved to Bowling Green after college; now, she is a full-time staff member at CSF. Callie, a senior, is studying outdoor recreation administration and is also a staff member at CSF; she also has only bought ethically made clothing for the past two years. Haleigh, a freshman, is from a small town in Western Kentucky, is from a “nuclear” family, and is a pre-dental major. Becca, a freshman, is an exercise science major from Lexington and went to a private Christian school. Emmy, a freshman and Becca’s roommate, is a biochemistry and music major from Georgia and is an adopted only child. Liz, a freshman and my roommate, is a forensic psychology and criminology major from a part of Northern Kentucky that is known for the opioid epidemic. I am a biology and Spanish major from Bowling Green, Kentucky and am adopted with four other adopted siblings.

The dinner started off with a prayer and then went on to a conversation about using scissors to cut food, which then somehow lead to the question of “what does citizenship mean to you?” When I asked this question, I intentionally left off the “beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws” part, so I could see what the first thing that popped into their minds was. Nathan was the first to respond with an answer that basically encompassed voting, paying taxes, and following laws; then, with a nudge from Becca, I asked the question again with the “beyond…” part. Kelsi mentioned being a part of a community and having a sense of belonging, which lead Callie to joke that Nathan wasn’t a part of our dinner community because he cuts food with scissors. Everyone else’s answers leaned towards being a part of the community with mentions of activism from Liz. She said that being a citizen encompasses activism, as in finding something that you’re passionate about and standing up for/doing something about issues.

The next question I asked was, “Do you know your neighbors? Why or why not?” Kelsi and Nathan said that they don’t know their neighbors that well; there’s a couple that they know well enough to smile at and have small talk with, but other than that they only know descriptive details about their neighbors. They moved into their home in August and were kind of shocked by how none of their neighbors greeted them and welcomed them into the neighborhood since both of them came from neighborhoods where you would go say hi to the new neighbors and introduce yourself. Then, everyone talked about their neighborhoods growing up, which ranged from close-knit ones with a lot of kids to not as close ones with no neighborhood kids. We then moved on to our neighbors in college, which brought up Moldy Minton. All of us freshman lived in Minton this past fall, and we said we don’t know our neighbors in our new residence halls. We all agreed that our first taste of college community was broken because of the unfortunate situation, and we discussed how we were getting comfortable with the people on our floors and in Minton itself. Now, we’ve been put into already established communities where we feel uncomfortable to disrupt their flow.

Some of the other questions I asked were, “What advice would you give to your neighbors?” to which Nathan replied, “Be our friends.” And, “What is the thing you love about living where you do?” Nathan and Kelsi both said that they love living close to downtown, Callie said she “loved” the hole in her bathroom ceiling, and Becca and Emmy said that they loved having their own bathroom. Another was, “Does your religious or spiritual identity relate to how you see yourself as a citizen?” which was answered with a unanimous yes. My last question was, “What kind of person do you want to be?” Everyone took their time for this one. Kelsi said that she wanted to be like Jesus; obviously, we all felt the same. Liz added that she wanted to be a Christian woman who is motivated and intelligent as well as compassionate and kind.

With the discussion of neighbors, I thought about the article, “How We Talk Matters,” and the question, “How do we live well together?” While Keith Melville focuses on American society in his article, his overall message is that all societies have disagreements, but in the way we disagree is what truly matters. In order to have a healthy disagreement or just a conversation, you have to listen politely, talk respectably, and submerge yourself into another’s point of view all while maintaining a leveled head. This whole view syncs perfectly with how we live well together; one of the major factors that affects how we live together is communication. For the majority of America, I think that since we are more oriented toward individualism, it’s, in a way, harder to have these deep conversations and make these connections with our neighbors or anyone for that matter. I think that the reason Kelsi and Nathan have struggled to form the relationships that they want with their neighbors is due to this individualistic culture. They don’t want to force a relationship with their neighbors, and the neighbors might not want to go out of their way to form a connection.

After this dinner, I feel like I really got to know everyone’s personalities, especially the people that I don’t know as well. And while we all had different experiences and viewpoints, we didn’t have any polar opposite opinions; everyone was polite and shared their thoughts on the questions I asked as well as other ideas and topics of interest. This dinner really made me think about our conversations of being a Christ-like person, making connections with the community, and, of course, citizenship.

McKenzie’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By McKenzie

My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place in my hometown of Scottsville, Kentucky on March 23, 2019. The dinner was at my older sister’s house and consisted of mostly family, with the exception of my boyfriend and one of my sister’s friends who I didn’t know very well. I enjoyed this assignment because I always like getting to see my family and have conversations with them about things that matter.

My nephew, Peyton, who is in the bottom left hand corner of the picture, is 5 years old and he is in pre-school. He loves to talk and voice his opinion, even though he is young. Going clockwise in the picture, my younger sister is next. Her name is Harleigh and she is 14 years old. She loves softball and enjoys going to church. Next is my boyfriend, Jose. Jose is 23 years old and he is from Puerto Rico. He has also lived in New York City. He works with me at Olive Garden and he enjoys playing video games in his free time. He provides the most diversity here because he has vastly different views of the world based on the places he grew up and the things he has experienced. Noah, my other nephew who is almost 8 years old, has quite the personality. When I asked how he wanted to be described in my blog, he jokingly said “handsome.” I finally got it out of him that he likes playing basketball and baseball.  Next is Taylor, who is my younger sister’s friend. She is 14 and loves playing softball, just like my sister. My other sister, Lindsey, is pictured next. Lindsey is a 31-year-old family nurse practitioner who loves her job and enjoys spending time with her three children. My mom, Melissa, also attended the dinner. She is a cosmetologist in Scottsville, where she owns her own business. Then of course, there was me. I was the one taking the picture. My name is McKenzie and I am a 21-year-old pre-med student from Scottsville, Kentucky. I am also a server at Olive Garden.

It was interesting to hear how the opinions differed, and remained the same, between the three generations that were present at my Kentucky Kitchen Table. In regards to the actual dinner, Lindsey had garlic bread and salad for us, my mom made lasagna, and Jose and I brought strawberry shortcake for dessert.

I initially asked everyone what citizenship meant to them besides voting, paying taxes, and following laws. My mom was the first to speak up and she said that being a good neighbor was a major component of citizenship. Others around the table pitched in and we eventually came to the conclusion that we all have bad days sometimes, and that as citizens it is important for us to lift each other up when we get down. Jose mentioned that he thought an important component of citizenship was being a good listener. We all want to live better together and solve problems, both of which require us to listen to each other and consider what one another has to say. This part of the conversation reminded me of the article we read in class by Keith Melville titled “How We Talk Matters.” Being a good listener and considering different perspectives when we discuss tough issues with one another is so important. Two of the central questions that we discuss in class a lot are based on solving problems and living better together, and if we aren’t good listeners as citizens, it will be impossible for us to fix things on the local and national levels that may directly affect our lives.

My nephews and even Harleigh and Taylor agreed that being a good listener is important for them because if they are good listeners in school, they learn more and perform better, which will eventually contribute to their understanding of citizenship. Peyton and Noah were very vocal during the discussions which surprised me because of their age. They were constantly trying to contribute to the conversation and actively engage with us about citizenship, which leads me to the next point that we discussed which is the idea that citizenship means teaching the future generations about the components of citizenship. From things ranging from participating in politics and following laws to being a good neighbor.

The conversation strayed to how being a good citizen also means being empathetic and compassionate towards others. If we are unable to take a step back and stand in the shoes of our fellow citizens, we can’t really see the world from their perspective and therefore we can’t solve problems. This entire section of the discussion was interesting because I hadn’t ever really thought about citizenship in regards to how we treat others due to the fact that citizenship seemed so limited to participating in elections and obeying the laws before we had this discussion.

I then asked what social issues were closest to their hearts. Jose said that one of the main social issues he has the most experience with is racism. He has had differential treatment in some instances based solely on his race. He didn’t go into detail on those instances, but he stated that racism does still exist today even though many people believe it doesn’t. This issue is of particular interest to him because he has personal experience with it, and it perplexed the rest of us because we couldn’t fathom how people could treat others differently based on something as superficial as skin color. We discussed how social issues such as this one ultimately divide citizens and keep us from reaching our full potential as a community, and even as a nation. Through this part of the discussion, I learned how rampant racism still is in society, and how it affects those who are the subjects of it. This isn’t something that Jose and I had ever really talked about, so I learned a lot about how passionate he is about the issue and how he has been affected by it in the past.

We then briefly discussed what kind of community we want to live in, and we all agreed that we want to live in a community that is safe for raising our family, or our future families. Harleigh stated that during the past couple years, Scottsville has experienced more murders and crime than ever before, and that she really disliked what it had become. Taylor, alike, said that she didn’t want to live in a place where things like that were common. My mom said she wanted to live in a place where she feels safe leaving her business alone at night, and Lindsey said she wanted to live in a place where drugs aren’t so bad. She sees a lot of patients with drug abuse history, so this is an issue that was really personal for her.

Overall, I feel like I learned a little about what each person is passionate about and how they view the world. It is interesting to have dense discussion with others because with each tiny bit of conversation, you see more of the world in a different light. I was particularly surprised by how the discussion about citizenship was based mainly around the treatment of others instead of more towards politics and things of that nature. I also learned that mostly all of us want the same things from society: a safe community, good neighbors, and polite interactions with others. I think all of this goes to show that it is important for us as citizens to always be aware of others. As a whole, we are greater than the sum of our parts. Citizenship is about being the best version of yourself you can be to contribute as much as you possibly can to the best version of society that we all seek to create.

Maggie’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Maggie

I held my Kentucky Kitchen table in my hometown of Prospect, KY on March 9th, 2019. It was held at my parents home. While having family dinners are fairly standard for my family, this one was quite different- we almost never discuss anything deeper than the events of the day. In order to have a successful and engaging discussion, it is imperative to have greater diversity than that of a nuclear family- diversity in this group was promoted by a variety of ages, social classes, and experiences.

My dinner was attended by 6 people. My mother, Bethany, is 49, works as an ultrasound technician, and is originally from Cleveland, Ohio. She works to support our family and spends significant portions of her time helping at local charities. Lucas is 20, works as a parks guide, and resides in Goshen, Kentucky. He hopes to one day work at a national park and have a family. Meghan is 19, an elementary education student at Western Kentucky University, and from Sellersburg, Indiana. She comes from a higher class family and hopes to one day be able to support children’s love of learning. Alec is 19, a business student at Western Kentucky University, and is from Prospect, Kentucky. He comes from a lower class family, and aims to be able to support himself. Katie is 16, a student at Oldham county schools, and aims to be a biologist. Last but not least, I was there, and am a 19 year old psychology student at Western Kentucky University from Prospect, KY. I brought variety to the table from my experience of growing up in a broken family, with myself being the only one I could depend on consistently. Although we are all from the same region, I invited this group to dinner because of the wide variety of experiences, political opinions, and values that the group holds.

The conversation began with me asking “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” To my surprise, there was a fast agreement that to be a good citizen, one must be morally driven and supportive of others. As Bethany said, “There is no point in having a social organization if we don’t really care what others are saying.” This point well sums up what the group believes- that if we support no one, then no one will support us. This agreement, though gloomy, gave me some sort of hope for a society in which we can rely upon others being “good Samaritans”.

The conversation began to get interesting when I asked the question “What social issue is closest to your heart and why?” Unlike the previous discussion, I got a variety of answers. Myself, I care the most about reproductive rights and sexual health. This is a topic that I have always been interested in and believe should be talked about more, taught in schools, and protected by the law. I received several questions about my answer- Lucas asked me why it was so important if it doesn’t have a pressing influence on my life. I believe that this rhetoric revealed a lot about both of our personalities- while I tend to look towards the big picture, or the universal impacts of an issue, Lucas tends to care more about what impacts the local community. Alec and Lucas both said that they are most concerned about the environment. This surprised me, as they both hold conservative viewpoints in almost every other social issue. They both said that this issue is closest to their hearts because of how it will impact the human race for the future generations to come. Bethany said that education issues mean the most to her- having four children that had grown up in public schools, while good ones, she has hated seeing Kentucky public education being threatened. She specifically referenced several bills currently going through the Kentucky state House of Representatives and Senate that will redirect funds from public to private education, as well as transportation of children to and from school in rural areas.

It was at this point in the conversation that we began to discuss how we can make a change regarding these issues- rather than merely sitting by and letting these social issues take their course, almost all of us agreed that we have a duty as citizens to make an effort to change, both as individuals and as a society. There was one dissenting opinion- regarding climate change, Alec believes that we have surpassed the point of no return. In his word, “If there’s no going back, shouldn’t we just live it up?” This point was met with disagreement from the rest of us attending. There was a general agreement that our responsibility goes beyond voting for those we hope will represent our best interests. A specific example given was by Katie, who believes that peaceful political action is the best way to have our voices heard. She gave the example of teacher strikes in our district, who effectively demonstrated their support of public education. Another opinion was voiced by Meghan, who believed that making personal changes are not enough- similar to the opinion voiced by Michael Pollan, author of Why Bother?, Meghan believes that the most of the responsibility for solving social issues belongs to those that cause them, and in most cases they are corporations and big businesses. All of the individuals at the dinner had some sort of big picture idea of how the issues we care about can be solved most effectively.

Besides the actual content of the discussions had during the dinner, I had a much larger realization- these people, that I thought I knew at least decently well, had a significant amount of opinions that surprised me. I think that this point well sums up one of the biggest problems in society and democracy- we spend so much time making assumptions about others that we don’t put any effort to genuinely understanding others values and opinions. As I reflect on my Kentucky Kitchen Table, I believe that although we all have our different opinions and beliefs in what are the most important issues, we all recognize our duty as citizens to be involved. Talking more openly about our opinions is a crucial first step to progressing as a nation and being able to have more of a say in our lives.