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.