By: Jessica Cox
My Kentucky Kitchen Table Project took place on April 5th, 2019 at my home in Whitley City, KY. For our dinner, we ate tacos made by my mother herself with rice and refried beans. Attending the dinner would be my mom, my dad and an old friend of mine from high school. My mom is what one might define as a “true southern woman” that works hard as a nurse to support me and my brother. My dad is quite similar as he works at the county road department and believes in working for what you earn and standing up for what you believe in. My friend, Shawn, is currently studying Physical Therapy at the University of Kentucky, he is more on the moderate spectrum of things with his views and beliefs of the world but still contributed heavily to the conversation without being overpowered by the conservative aspects within.
None of the people whom I ate dinner with this night have ever taken the Citizen and Self course, so this entire project was new to them. I began the conversation by asking “beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” The first response came from my dad, who said that citizenship to him meant giving back to our community and doing our duties as Americans. Next, Shawn said that to him, citizenship meant being a humble member of society and also giving back whether that meant through your career or through your personal daily activities. Both my mom and myself were able to agree with these statements before shifting the conversation to the next question.
“What do you think are the best things about our world today?” was our next question which actually brought up some controversy. Shawn immediately counteracted the question by asking what is actually good in the world today. From there, we briefly discussed some important current events that have either had too much attention in the media or not enough. One idea we talked about was the idea that the media covers a lot of bad things are happening and only focuses on some occurrences. My dad brought up the ever-controversial, long running gun control debate. He mentioned the fact that people don’t see the positive sides of our second amendment but rather they focus solely on the bad that comes with firearms. My dad talked about how having guns has given him the opportunity to put food on our table since long before I was born, how owning a gun has been a form of protection for our family for years, and then finished by arguing that if we banned guns then it would only give criminals an advantage because if someone really wanted to use a gun to harm someone, then they would do that if they were legal or not. Although we seemed to go off on a tangent, my sweet little mom ended that portion of the conversation by saying that we should be blessed to have the things that we have and not take anything for granted.
We discussed other questions throughout the meal such as “what is the thing you love most about living where you do,” “do you know your neighbors? Why or why not,” and “what kind of person do you want to be?” However, one question that stood out to me the most was “do you think your job relates to your role as a citizen?” Both my parents’ career and Shawn’s career path are directly providing services to the public as Shawn and my mom are in the health field while my dad works at the county road department fixing whatever issues that the public may present to them. Their answers to this were pretty obvious and straightforward, but that led us into our final question of “do you see your job as serving a greater purpose?’ The response which was the most meaningful to me came from my mom. “Being a nurse wasn’t something that I absolutely wanted to do because I knew that it didn’t have the best pay grade, I knew it would be hard to lose patients, especially those who you’ve made connections with, but I did it because I felt compelled to do so. I know the world needs nurses to help and serve our community and I wanted to step up and do that. So yes, I do see my job as serving a much greater purpose to our world and community.”
I do believe this conversation had a very common theme of determination. From the beginning, my dad and Shawn were both pretty determined that our world was not in the greatest shape that it could possibly be in. They both debated the media and occurrences not shown to us by the media, especially the topic of gun control. However, although they are fed up with how our society is continuing to evolve, they are not giving up hope. Alongside that, my mother’s answer to our final question proved just what a determined and hard-working woman she truly is in only a few short sentences. Not only that, but when discussing each person’s career, it showed our determination. The health field is quite unpleasant when you are just the helping hands rather than an actual doctor. The county road department is definitely not unpleasant because you are doing manual labor for sometimes ridiculous tasks that the public asks of you for a very low pay grade. And then myself, I am going into education and we all know how underappreciated and underpaid teachers are. However, I am going into that field because I believe in being a role model and making an impact on children’s lives and that kind of compassion and determination has been cultivated by those around me whether they are my family or just old friends.
This conversation ties into the theme of our class because one of our questions, “how do we live well together?” has many aspects to it that require determination. We must have those important people in each community who are willing to make sacrifices, big or small, in order to live well together.