On the night of April 6th, 2019, three ladies and I cozied up in a campus apartment in Bowling Green, Kentucky, over a homemade dinner. After fixing one of my mom’s homemade baked ham and cheese sandwiches, in addition to some chips and fruit, we sat down around the table and discussed the broad topic of citizenship, social issues, our lives in Bowling Green, and all of the things in this world that we care about the most. My attendees included Emily, Ellie, and Katie—or KJ as she’s known to everyone else.
Emily is a Junior at Western Kentucky University and is a Public Relations major. This dinner was hosted at her apartment, along with her friend KJ, whom she invited. Emily is from London, Kentucky, which is approximately two hours and thirty minutes east of Bowling Green. This gives Emily experience with not only smaller town culture, but also the culture of urban areas. I met Emily through our sorority—Omega Phi Alpha—as Emily is my big’s big, or my grandbig! KJ is Emily’s friend and is also a junior here at WKU. KJ is a far distance from home as she grew up in Stillwater, Minnesota. Although I had only briefly met KJ once, I got to learn a lot about her at the dinner table. She is a very quirky Biology major with a Pre-PA concentration and plans on applying to schools this summer to be a Physician Assistant. Even with her busy schedule, KJ is very active in her faith. She leads a bible study group at her apartment every Sunday night and has a deep curiosity for others’ beliefs and religious ways. Ellie is a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority and is a freshman at WKU. She is from Louisville, KY, just like myself, but we did not come to know each other until living here in Minton together at WKU. Ellie grew up going to an all-girls Catholic school in Louisville, but she has since expanded herself beyond things she was accustomed to in school. Ellie is a Dental Hygiene major and plans to one day pursue a career in that field.
We are a very diverse group, as we are all pursuing different majors, we all come from different locations and different backgrounds and are involved in different programs on campus, but we have some qualities in common. Each of us is a member of the Mahurin Honor’s college here at Western. In addition, none of us call Bowling Green our home, so we are connected by the fact that we have had to adapt to a new community and make it our own. We all ate for a while and talked amongst ourselves, not wanting to move into the real assignment at hand. After a few minutes, I wanted to get the conversation started with a “lite” question to get us kicked off.
Did you ever have meals around the table with your family or neighbors growing up?
We began the night by talking about the meal I prepared: I wanted to ask the girls about their experiences growing up, and today, at the dinner table. Each of us went around and discussed our typical dinner traditions growing up, and, in some way, shape, or form, whether it was at a table, at the counter, or in the living room, a meal was shared in some sort of fashion. For many of us, once we all reached a certain age, typically high school, time at the dinner became scarce as demanding schedules became to interfere with mealtime. Ellie and I agreed that being away from campus, it can be hard to have that “family dinner” you are so accustomed to at home, which is why Ellie, myself, and some of our other friends created a dinner group where we eat together every night at Fresh. The consistency of the meal each night is what creates such a comforting routine away from home. Aside from its original purpose, this idea of a consistent mealtime can prove valuable to the growth of our personal ideals. Dinner is a time to share beliefs, experiences, concerns about today’s social challenges, etc., which leads to a conversation in search of new perspectives and paths forward individually and collectively. This is how we grow as individuals and collaborate and solve problems with each other.
What is the thing you love about living where you do?
Being away from our homes, we have all come to enjoy certain characteristics of Bowling Green. A lot of us mentioned that we enjoyed downtown Bowling Green and the square and what it has to offer. We all noticed that, in comparison to Louisville and other cities, we can tell that WKU is immersed in the “Bible Belt” and that is a big part of the atmosphere on campus. There was also a general consensus that we all appreciate the safeness of Western’s campus and how the campus has a safe community ranking. This conversation about campus protection got us to talking about firearms and other social issues that connect to us.
What social issue is closest to your heart and why?
I have found that this group of ladies are very passionate about a variety of different social issues. One social that really involved and connected all of us was the topic of Women’s Rights. Each of us agreed that the meaning behind the movement itself has been altered over time from what it should truly stand for. For example, some of our worries that, obviously right now women are being discriminated against, but if we continue the way we are currently proceeding then at some point we are going to start discriminating against men. Although we may not admit it, times have changed, And now, from the male perspective, some are afraid to “flirt” or approach women as it can be interpreted by women as an uncomfortable, inappropriate, or dangerous activity. This society and the Women’s Rights movement has become too sensitive to certain behaviors. This idea of the lives of women today also coincided with our discussion on means of protection. It should be safe on this Earth, for men AND women. Living on a college campus can prove to be very dangerous. It is comforting to know that when we are away from home—at the dorms, the Registry, Kentucky St. apartments—WKU has a safe campus reputation and none of us have ever felt unsafe during our time here on campus, as it should be for all women.
Do you think we have any obligations to other people in our country? In our community?
Immediately, KJ answered this off the bat and had a true passion for this question. She said that as a country we should owe each other certain things such as respect, protection, and assistance. I learned from this question—specifically regarding giving assistance to others—that if someone were to need help, that means that individual trusts you enough to ask for help, as this generation we live in despises asking for help or support. We don’t have a legal obligation to each other, but we should be morally obligated to give our fruits of labor
Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?
At first, I didn’t really receive the kind of input I expected. Everyone at the table was a little confused, so I had to rephrase. Gradually, I received some answers. Ellie bravely answered first, saying that citizenship was another way to categorize yourself, and another identifier for society. For my other guests, we took the idea of citizenship to mean that you represent a certain stereotype. For example, if you claim yourself as a citizen of the United States, that can come back with negative viewpoints from people of other countries. Ignorance, obesity, and freedom are somewhat positive/negative identifiers that people associate with the U.S. Being a citizen is representing the stereotypes that other people give you and your country, but then acting on those things to change the societal norms.
In the end, I will treasure this Kentucky Kitchen Table in my college and life experience. I learned that social issues don’t have to be controversial or tear relationships apart. In fact, they should be discussed civilly, with the common purpose among everyone to solve the problem, because that is the only way we are going to make progress in society. Regardless of our backgrounds, society should be held to a standard of being kind to one another and doing everything in your power to create a world filled to the brim with love. I believe that is what citizenship is and what our obligation to each other should be.