My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place in my hometown of Adair County, KY on Sunday, April 15th. Including myself, there were five people, along with Faith, Andrea, Krystal, and Jackson. As I do with most of my assignments, I ignored the importance of this assignment and procrastinated it until the last possible minute. On Sunday morning I urgently texted Krystal and asked if I could host a dinner at her house because I needed an actual kitchen table, which my house does not have. Although I knew everyone that attended my dinner, I’m not close with everyone and this dinner allowed me to see them all from a different perspective, get a glimpse into their outlook on life and their opinions on a variety of topics, and just get to know them all better.
Everyone that attended my dinner brought a quality or attribute to the table that nobody else possessed to create diversity within the conversation. Krystal is a mother, a wife, and a freshman academic advisor at the college in my hometown and she was able to bring an immense amount of experience and wisdom that we would not have had otherwise. Faith is someone that I’ve known since I moved to Adair County 6 years ago, but we did not become close friends until about a year ago. Andrea is a junior in high school while Faith and Jackson are both freshman at the college in my town and although they share similar situations because they attend the same school and are in the same atmosphere a majority of the time, they have very different pasts. Everyone at my dinner had very similar religious beliefs which played a huge impact in how we all answered the questions and our outlook on life as a whole, but our variety of past experiences and challenges in life also had large contribution on how we felt about certain topics.
We kept the meal simple by fixing burgers with chips and cookies for dessert with the main focus of the dinner being on the discussion. I did not start the dinner with the intentions of asking and answering all of the conversation starter questions, but I ended up doing that because as I read them I became curious to hear what everyone had to say about each one. In many cases we unanimously agreed on one answer, but in some cases we all had different thoughts and ideas to contribute. Starting with the required question, what citizenship means to us, we agreed that it meant being a community and having the ability to belong to something. No matter what a person’s race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc. they have the ability to belong to something much bigger than that and to be a citizen. When answering questions relating to topics such as: if our religious identities relate to how we treat people, do we have obligations to other people, and what kind of person we want to be we all answered in very similar ways agreeing that our religion is very important to us and that became a huge influence in how we answered these questions. We discussed being selfless and willing to serve and love others regardless of who they are in the same way that God loves us. We also considered the idea that is mentioned repeatedly in the Bible about loving our neighbors as yourself and how that applied to so many of these questions. When we imagined the kind of community we wanted to live in we all listed one words that described that perfect community. Contribution, love, cohesive, and equality were just some of the words we used to express our perfect community.
Although we all had similar answers for a majority of the questions because we all shared similar religious beliefs, we also have a variety of backgrounds and childhood experiences, that helped create a lot of differences in our answers. When we discussed the question on whether or not we ate dinner around a table with our families growing up the answers varied widely. As I mentioned earlier, I did not have a kitchen table to even do this assignment at and Krystal so graciously allowed me to use hers. Growing up my family had a kitchen table but it’s primary function was just a place to lay our keys, jackets, and bags when we got home. So growing up I never ate dinner around a kitchen table on an everyday basis and neither did Faith. Jackson didn’t either growing up, but his family does now. Andrea explained that sometimes her family does but not every single day. On the other hand, Krystal always ate dinner around the kitchen table and continues that tradition with her own family now. We’re always taught that communication is a very important part of any relationship and Krystal further explained how critical it is not only in relationships or friendships, but also with families. I never even imagined what I was missing out on by not eating dinner around a table with my family growing up until I’m around other families who do practice that habit every day. They all share stories about their day or new things that they learned or random thoughts that pop into their head. I never envied people for having a piece of furniture in their house, but the older I get the more I do.
This dinner really opened my eyes to how the smallest differences in people can make such a huge impact on their futures, how they view the world, and how they develop their own opinions on different things. The topics themselves taught me that a lot of people would agree that coming together as one body is a crucial part of being a citizen and forming a community. Throughout American history we’ve struggled with the idea of diversity and accepting everyone regardless of differences, but that diversity that some fear, is what makes our country a community of people. Not only did our actual conversation teach me a lot, but the act of sitting around a table being forced to talk to one another and have an open discussion about what we did that day, answering questions from a sheet of paper, and everything in between showed me a lot. I did not realize that such a simple act like sitting at a table and eating could be such a relieving experience.
Throughout this semester we’ve discussed so many different wicked problems and even though none of them have a right or wrong approach to addressing them, the most important thing is that we talk about them in a respectful way. By talking about different things, we get a variety of opinions that we could not have thought on our own. When we read the “Introduction to Wicked Problems” one of the characteristics to describe a wicked problem is that people have to be willing to change their mindset. People have to start being open to hearing different viewpoints to initiate a change in their mindset. This assignment taught me that everyone has ideas that they wouldn’t normally share unless they were asked. We can’t work towards a solution for these wicked problems unless we bring them up and are willing to ask people for their thoughts on it. I feel that this assignment answered all of our central questions in some way or another. We can live better together by being more accepting of each other regardless of our differences and by not being afraid to talk about subjects that make people uncomfortable. People are afraid to talk about things like gun control or racism because they don’t want to offend anyone or they don’t know how someone will react their opinion, but we won’t see any change use we’re willing to start talking about it. We can solve problems by talking about them, coming to some sort of compromise, and implementing change. This idea of talking to reach a “solution” was discussed heavily in Martin Carcasson’s “Tackling Wicked Problems Through Deliberative Engagement” where he mentions that people have to get through “the groan zone.” A lot of different opinions coming from a lot of different voices can be difficult to handle and take into consideration. However, we have to start somewhere and work from there. Knowing what a wicked problem is and the characteristics used to describe it is a good starting point. Everyone that is addressing wicked problems has a common goal: reaching a mutual solution. Remembering that when discussing anything is quite valuable when you come to the groan zone, but after the groan zone Carcasson bring up a good point that we can’t just talk forever. Some kind of action has to be taken. A mutual consensus has to be made based on the ideas that have been mentioned. At my dinner we obviously were not there to address a problem and come to an agreement, but it made me realize that we need more opportunities to sit and talk about different things in a respectful environment.