I “hosted” my Kentucky Kitchen Table on April 6, 2019 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I am not from Bowling Green and neither were the attendees of my KKT. Therefore, we ate at Mariah’s, a quiet restaurant in downtown Bowling Green. My friend Sarah and I are in the same sorority and it was Mothers Weekend. Our moms and my mom’s friends had traveled from the suburbs of St. Louis and Chicago and were ready for a nice meal and discussion. On the left, is my mom. She lives in Edwardsville, IL, which is where she grew up and attended university. She considers herself to have lived a “white picket fence house” type of life, very normal in a sense. Next to her is Irma, my mom’s friend. She grew up in New Jersey and now lives in Edwardsville also. She grew up with five sisters and had a rowdy childhood. She spends her days looking after and assisting a disabled man in the community. Her and my mom met because they have similar aged children who became friends in elementary school, and they have remained friends through middle school. Next to Irma is Diana, Sarah’s mom, who I have only met once before. Diana is from Gurnee, IL, about an eight-hour drive from Bowling Green. She has three children who are attending three different universities, all in the south. Her husband has a house near Florence, KY, and she bounces between the universities visiting her children. Sarah is sitting next to her mom on the right. She is a very funny, outgoing girl who always stops strangers if they are walking a dog. She is a nursing major and is constantly studying to keep her direct administration spot in WKU’s nursing program. Next to Sarah in the right bottom side of the picture is Liz. She has two sons who are age seven and one. Her and my mom met because their husbands play in the same lake-community bags (cornhole) tournaments on Wednesday nights. Liz is a stay at home mom but watches other children after school throughout the day before their parents get home from work. Together, we all brought a lot of diversity to the table and had different ideas about what community and citizenship meant to us.
Beyond voting, paying taxes and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?
This question established a lot of different answers. My mom answered first stating that she believes citizenship consists of working together with other citizens to create an enjoyable place to interact and grow. She included examples of the lake community that we live. We have community clubs to help with landscape and beach upkeep in the public areas of our community. The community also hosts annual holiday related events that end up being traditions for most families around the lake. They were started as a way help form bonds between neighbors and community members. Some of these include the Fourth of July ski show, the Easter egg hunt, and breakfast with Santa. Kelly mentioned that our neighborhood would not be as enjoyable to live if she didn’t attend these events as a newlywed with my dad to help meet people in their new neighborhood.
My mom’s friend, Irma, added that citizenship means helping your neighbors, coworkers, and friends in as many ways as you can. This was a response that I expected from Irma. She has been taking care of Jeff, a disabled community member, for the past few years. She does his grocery shopping, takes him to doctor appointments, administers his medications, and keeps him company during the day due to his lack of immediate family. She recognizes that Jeff would not have the same quality of life if he didn’t have help from Irma every day. Irma sees positive change in her surroundings when she is helping Jeff. Liz seconded the point that Irma made about helping neighbors and friends in any way possible. Liz watches her neighbor’s and friend’s kids after school to assist working mom’s busy schedules. It makes her feel like an important member of her community and is making a difference because she is assisting the people closest to her.
Sarah had no experience with baby sitting or helping disabled citizens in her neighborhood. However, she felt that my mom and her friends made a good point. Sarah made a similar comment as my mom and added that citizenship means creating a safe and supportive community for other citizens. She has always lived in a safe neighborhood that had children running around and playing every day after school or in the surrounding summer heat. Parents would never have to worry about children being around unsafe community members or dangerous strangers. Diana confirmed Sarah’s statement. She mentioned that she knew most of her surrounding neighbors and felt comfortable letting her children play with other kids around the neighborhood. She mentioned that the parents in the neighborhood would often gather in somebody’s driveway to catch up and watch over the rambunctious children.
All of the responses had the same theme. They included creating a helpful and safe community for everybody. This allows people to live and prosper in a positive environment. It also creates a sense of pride in their community. This theme relates to the first central question of our class: how can people live better together? It is a hard question to answer, but the attendees of my Kentucky Kitchen Table made it clear that it is a major priority in the sense of citizenship. I think that people can learn by example. If just one person begins to help their community members, like Liz and Irma, other people will see the impact it creates. Ultimately, it could inspire others to help their neighbors and fellow citizens. This would make it possible for more communities to be like Diana’s, Sarah’s, my mom’s and my own.
My perspective of community and citizen’s obligation to one another has changed dramatically throughout this course. I used to believe that citizens had absolutely no obligations towards one another. I thought that people just simply did things out of the kindness of their heart and it did not affect the community that much. However, I have changed after talking with the members of my Kentucky Kitchen Table and specifically the case study about the little boy who was saved by a bystander after he fell into a pond. As citizens we are obligated to help each other. We are obligated to be a good person. We are obligated to create a safe environment for others. Without any obligations and expectations for citizens, the world would be such a hostile place.