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.