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.