My Kentucky Kitchen Table meal took place on March 29th, 2019, in my hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky. There were four people in attendance: me (Mallory), Sophie, Lindsey, and my mom, Sherry. Sophie and I are first year college students at Western Kentucky University and are in the same Citizen and Self class. We met last semester in another class we had together, but we do not know each other very well and do not really spend a lot of time together outside of class. Sophie enjoys sports and writes for the WKU newspaper sports section. As for me, I love yoga (when I have time for it) and music, and I work a few days a week at a local private school in the after-school program. Lindsey is my younger sister, who is homeschooled and in her junior year of high school. She is passionate about all things music, dance, and the arts as a whole. She works one day a week for a local dance studio and thinks she may want to pursue teaching dance as a career someday. My mom, Sherry, works from home and is a very active volunteer for planning and chaperoning church youth programs and trips.
We began the evening with some casual chatting about weekend plans and getting to know each other a bit. When all of the food was ready and on the table, we all sat down at the kitchen table, my mom said a blessing for the food, and we began to fill our plates. Since Sherry and Lindsey have only briefly met Sophie before, they spent a few minutes talking to her about where she was from, what she likes to do, what her major is, how her classes are going, and other such “get to know you” topics. Then the conversation turned to the question of: “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” My mom was the first to answer, and in my opinion said it well when she said, “To me, citizenship is about living somewhere/in a community where you feel you have a sense of belonging. I am a citizen of the United States because I live here, but also because I feel like I belong here.” We all agreed to that statement and Sophie added that she felt that citizenship is about belonging but also about having a sense of responsibility, to which we all agreed to.
After this discussion, we moved on to some of the other questions. Someone asked the question, “What do you think are the best things about our world today?” I answered and said that ease of communication and modern technology was one thing about our world today that I valued, besides freedom and other such qualities we experience in our country. Lindsey slightly contradicted me on this statement, saying that I only valued modern technology and ability to easily communicate because I am in a long distance relationship. I agreed that that definitely did influence that statement, but even outside of that I value being able to communicate with my friends and family who are traveling abroad or do not live in the same city, state, or even country as me.
Next, I asked, “Do you know your neighbors? Why or why not?” My mom answered this question for me and Lindsey too since we both still live at home. She explained to Sophie that we do know our neighbors that are on the immediate opposite sides of us, but not really anyone else in the neighborhood. She told Sophie about the couple and their child that lives on the left side of us and the older man who is a widower who lives on our right side. We told some fun stories about them, as well of some of the other people who live in our neighborhood that we have not formally met but have had a couple of encounters with. Sophie said that she knew her neighbors on one side, but did not know the others because they have not lived there very long. However, she said she of course knows her “neighbors” in her dorm on campus.
We also discussed whether we thought our jobs served a greater purpose and if we believed that we had any obligations to other people in our country or our community. Sophie said she did not think her job really served any greater purpose, but the rest of us believed that our jobs did serve a greater purpose through helping and influencing others. We faced a bit of controversy in our discussion on obligation to others. At first, we did not really agree. Sherry stated that she was concerned with the safety aspect of it, specifically using the example of stopping to help someone asking for money on the street. While I agreed that you had to be careful in those types of situations, I said that I thought we could always do something for people who need help, and I brought up the example of the little girl in China who was hit by a vehicle and many passed by but no one stopped to help her. Sophie agreed with me and said that it depends on the situation, and that if you did not feel safe stopping to help someone in that type of situation you could at least call authorities for help. After this, we all agreed that we do have a certain degree of obligation to help others, especially in critical or dangerous situations.
Through our discussions, I learned some new things about the people I was with. I also learned the value of discussing important matters with people you are close to as well as those you do not know as well and the benefits that can come from practicing that skill. It reminds me of the open conversation setup that we have learned to implement in our Citizen and Self class during discussions, where anyone is welcome to say what they think and not be criticized for their opinions. This relates to one of our main questions of the class, which is: “How do we live better together?” Civilly engaging with one another is a great way to solve problems and live better together, and I think it is a powerful tool and skill to learn how to utilize both in and outside of the classroom. As Andrew Postman’s article, “The Energy Diet,” relates, we can make a difference in the world through small changes and small ideas, which I believe relates to the Kentucky Kitchen Table experience because when we discuss ideas and problems together, we can come up with answers or ideas that could potentially change society for the better.