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.