Anna’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

I held my Kentucky Kitchen Table on March 31th, 2019 at my friend’s apartment right off campus in Bowling Green. There was a total of seven people there: Amelia, Elizabeth, Gina, Kate, Lauren, and Tatum. I know each of these people on different levels and from different places. Amelia and Gina are the people I knew the least but have gotten to know them better through this assignment because of our discussions which have carried on outside of the classroom and kitchen table. Elizabeth is one of my close friends who is in another class of Honors 251 and I always have good conversations with her. She adds different perspectives to things that challenge my views and make me question why I believe what I do, much like this class has done. Kate is deeply rooted in her religious beliefs and had many insightful things to say during our meal. Kate lives in the apartment and is a religious major. Lauren is spunky, but considerate of what she says and also lives in the apartment. She is a biology major with a history minor. Tatum is thoughtful and always thinks of other people before herself. She lives in the apartment as well but will be going to pharmacy school next year in Birmingham, Alabama. Although we are all freshman and sophomores in college, the diversity came from our backgrounds and unique experiences we have all been through. I invited Amelia and Gina, who are in my class, to my Kentucky Kitchen Table in order to help them have a place and because I thought they had a lot to offer and add to the conversation. I think we all did pretty equal work and each gave our best effort to help facilitate the discussion we had. 

We had a variety of food including salad with strawberries, potatoes, and chicken for some people, but eggs for Elizabeth and Amelia since they are vegetarian. Gina led the conversation with the question, “what does citizenship mean to everyone?” and Amelia clarified by saying “other than paying taxes, voting, and obeying laws”. Kate responded first by saying she believed citizenship was being a member of a community and having obligations for that community. She said this can be local or global. This was impactful because she will be traveling to the Philippines for a mission trip this summer and wants to do mission work for her career. We all agreed that all of us that being in a community and being a citizen means being cognizant and caring of the things going on in your community. Lauren also brought up the point that knowing the history of the place you live and observing how that affects your community today. We then got into talking about how our history in America has changed our country today. Now our country is more about embracing where you came from instead of adjusting to American culture. Tatum talked about how it is important to encourage people to embrace their heritage in order to work towards the betterment of our society. Elizabeth chimed in saying the reason she felt the need to be a good citizen was because she is a woman. We were a little confused, but she expanded on this to say that she feels as though being a woman in America is a privilege. She said this because many women in other countries do not have the same freedoms that we do. Therefore, because of the privilege she has from her country, she feels the obligation to be a good citizen. This is a unique way of looking at citizenship, but definitely brought a different perspective to the table. After that, Kate talked about how global citizenship means fighting for the rights of people who are oppressed. From there, Gina asked the question, “what do you think are the best parts of our world today?” Everyone hesitated for a little bit and admitted that all of the worst parts about our world came to our minds first. Some of the positive things we came up with were medical advances and furthering human rights. We also talked about how people are becoming more aware of the problems in our world, such as climate change and global warming. We moved into another topic on immigration and politics. Kate discussed the current political climate, specifically, how politicians use inflammatory language. Adding to that, we talked about how harsh and disrespectful people are to one another in our society, especially if it is something they are passionate about. We agreed that our country could use more civility. We connected this back to practicing citizenship and said that communities and members of communities should encourage listening to differing viewpoints. Overall, the conversation was engaging and I got to learn from other people’s perspectives on citizenship.

I believe our diverse perspectives and opinions added to the depth of conversation over citizenship. I learned that when people are able to separate their opinions on religion and citizenship, we are able to have complex discussions that assess differing sides of a subject. I believe that the added element of talking about our religious views within our dialogue added to the perspectives given. The problems we talked about were all things that we could address by being good citizens. It is up to us as members of a community to fight for change. We all agreed on certain things but felt comfortable enough to share our differing opinions with the group. Something insightful that I took away from the conversation was that even if people have differing views, we can find common ground a lot easier than we think. The questions we were posing while eating was directly related to a lot of our class topics. Honors 251 is all about citizenship and how big of an impact or say we have over wicked problems in our society. As we got to know each other’s opinions more, we were more empathetic towards each other. This reminded me of the “Empathy Readings” we did outside of class and the discussions we had in class. Both times I talked about it, the atmosphere felt comfortable and like I was in a judgement free zone. This is also how it felt when we were having our Kentucky Kitchen Table meal which was calming for me. I feel like I know these six girls on a more personal level after this meal and have a wider view on the topics we discussed. 

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Brandon’s Kentucky Kitchen Table, Georgetown

By Brandon

                I had my KKT on March 20th with 6 people, including myself, Brandon, in Georgetown, KY. The others were named Drew, Michelle, Chris, Richard, and Joyce. Drew and I are both around the same age. Michelle and Chris are both in their mid-40’s, Richard is 72 and Joyce is 68. Drew and I are both from Central Kentucky, while Chris is from Western Kentucky, Michelle and Joyce are from Eastern Kentucky, and Richard is from West Virginia. Michelle works at a CPA’s office, Chris works for Toyota, Joyce used to work in an office for the board of education, and Richard was in the Army (He went to Korea to guard the border, but it was during the Vietnam War) and then he was a Coal Miner. As you can tell, we were all different ages, with three generations being represented, and were all from vastly different regions of Kentucky. Many of us had had very different job experiences and therefore different experiences with others in life.

            To the first question they all had different answers. To Michelle, being a citizen meant being involved with others in the community, but not just by giving them what they need, by enabling them to get what they need for themselves when possible. Sort of a teach a man to fish rather than feed a man for a day sort of outlook. Chris said that he thinks that being a good citizen should mean that people leave each other alone more, to not get too involved in others’ affairs unless they ask for your help. He said that everyone has the right to be active as a citizen or not be active because it is their choice and we all have our roles to play. Joyce said that being a good citizen means helping others in need. Joyce grew up very poor, so she has a lot of sympathy for those in need. She understands what it is like first hand to be in need of food and clothes, and that It can be hard to ask for that sort of thing from others. Richard said that he thinks that people need to be more informed members of communities in order to act better. He feels like things are very tumultuous in the U.S. right now and that we need people to work together to fix them, but they need to learn what they are talking about first. Drew said that everyone needs to help each other when they need it, and that we all need to be more involved with our communities and the others in them. For me I fell somewhere between Michelle and Chris, I think that people shouldn’t have to be involved if they don’t want to, but that personally I would like to help other people through programs that help them to get what they need and to learn how to help themselves.

            One thing that was really interesting for me about the talk was that Chris and I both found out we were part of the same political party. My family and I almost never talk about politics since it will normally lead to arguments, or so we worry, so we never ever bring it up. But in bringing it up we learned that Chris and I both feel the same way about a lot of issues and were both a part of the same Party, which is even more impressive than it sounds because it is a third party, not Democrats or Republicans. It was really fascinating to me that I could live under the same roof with someone my whole life and not know that we both felt the same about so many things. I guess it makes sense though, we probably shared a lot of the same ideas and talked about them in passing without really realizing it.

            Richard responded a lot to the question about how a job helps others in the community since he was in the military and he was a coal miner. When he was in Korea he wasn’t just there to protect Americans, but also to protect people in Korea. He also felt like he did a lot for the community as a coal miner since they used to give people all across the country electricity. Joyce used to work for the board of education, she chose what students ate for lunch every day, so she played a huge role in her community. She was part of deciding what healthy options kids had to eat every day, so she played a role in almost every kid’s life in her county every day. Michelle does taxes, so obviously that plays a big role in society. Chris makes cars, but the company he works for is what keeps my entire hometown going, so that plays a big role in the community as well. Drew and I are both students, so we learn about how to make a difference in society even if we don’t have jobs to do it through yet. We still try to help others and be involved at our schools because we are the future of the community.

            The only real debate was between Drew and Richard. They were debating about someone being a citizen because they were born on U.S. soil, but not having parents that are from the U.S. that have just moved here. Richard said that he couldn’t understand how someone who was only born here and doesn’t have family from here could be a truly engaged citizen because they would have no love for the land or the community. This may seem like a bad thing to say at first, but it is important to remember that he is from a town of about 500 people in West Virginia where there was only one family that wasn’t white, and they were Native Americans, not immigrants. Drew, on the other hand, has a lot of friends that are immigrants, so he explained to Richard that they can easily grow a love for the community when they live here, especially if the community takes them in and makes them feel welcome. If that happens, they may even love the community even more than others in it do.

            Overall the dinner went really well. I learned a lot about my own family that I never had because we don’t normally talk about these sorts of things. It was also nice to get family that we don’t see very often to come over and have dinner, since my family and I almost never take the time to sit down and have dinner at a table together like this. It related to class because it showed me how much people have different ideas about things in one single family. Some thought they shouldn’t have to be engaged in the community, while others thought they should be. It reminded me of the environment readings in the way that some people think we should all do little things to help, like Drew, and some others, like Chris don’t think that there is much we can do and should leave it alone. Others, like Michelle, think we need to change how we work as a society, not just as individuals. It all tied back into class very nicely and the entire dinner went smoothly.

Claire’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Claire

I was so excited for this assignment all semester. I love sitting around the dinner table with family and friends, sharing thoughts and laughter as we eat a delicious homemade meal. My Kentucky Kitchen Table project took place in Louisville, Kentucky on November 16 at my family’s house. There were eight amazing people present, seven related and one not. 

The first person is my Dad, Mark. He is a Director of Research for a Pharmacogenomics laboratory as well as a professor in the department of Public Health at the University of Louisville and the best dad I could have ever asked for. Next is my Mom, Beth, not present in the picture above because she is pulling more of her famous rolls out of the oven. Beth is a biology high school teacher and the kind of person who is relentlessly encouraging and is able to make any day the best day of your life. Moving around the table comes my little sister Kate. Although she doesn’t know much about citizenship at the young age of 13, she’s always there to lighten the mood and bring a hint of joy to the dinner table. She’s never met a stranger she couldn’t talk to or a food she doesn’t like. Next, my oldest sister Ellen, a Chinese and International Affairs major with the most intense drive of anyone I have ever met. I hope to be half of who she is one day. Then Sarah, the next oldest sister who is going to someday become an art restorer and is all in all my very best friend. My brother William sits next to Sarah. He is the lead roaster for a coffee shop in Washington DC and is the coolest person I know. He brought along his new girlfriend Maggie, whom none of us know very well. Maggie is from Seattle, Washington and works for a documentary film company in Washington DC as well. The gang’s all here, and so the discussion begins.

“Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” A couple of contemplative thoughts and a few bites of lasagna later, my family jumps right in. They all seem to agree on one major thing; outside of the legal or customary status given to an individual which identifies them as a part of the larger group, citizenship comes with a common alliance of tradition and belief in common ideals, as well as communal promotion of those ideals within that community. It is the recognition by the individual that the group is bigger than themselves and they have a responsibility to that group. Outside of values and ideals, my brother includes that it is also the responsibility to participate in dialogue that has a generative nature to the laws, taxes, etc., that you hold as a nation. Maggie interestingly interjects a bit of a different view point, meaning that as a citizen you recognize that you are a steward, so to the best of your ability you must both be engaged in what’s going on and advocate for the best use of the resources and greatest care for other citizens that your conscience deems right. 

Overall, I would say there was a general consensus on citizenship, each person around the table building off of what the individual before them had said. This topic led into a conversation surrounding the question; what is the responsibility you have to the community around you? Or do you even have much responsibility outside of what our system has enacted as laws? Which led into a conversation about community in general. My mom, being from Jeffersontown, in Louisville, where we currently live, grew up in a time where J-Town was a close-knit group of people where everyone knew everyone, and the norm was to take care of and make a point to know the people that are around you. She said it was rare to see someone that she didn’t at least recognize who they were. Even in the same exact area my siblings and I grew up in a different J-Town, a place less focused on the community but the small pockets of people within the community that unfortunately, tend to not interact with one another. My siblings and I are more a part of the surrounding areas and the city of Louisville itself than my mom was. We trade a larger area for a looser community. We all expressed that we wish J-Town would one day return to more of a small-town community feel; something that is already in the process due to recent improvements. In further contrast, Maggie grew up in the wealthy area of inner-city Seattle. A place where it is almost impossible to know everyone around you. Her idea of a close-knit community relied on her next-door neighbors and church family. And my dad grew up in a heavily catholic community in Pennsylvania, a stark contrast to the conservative Baptist area of my mother. 

Religion of our respective communities and childhood led us into the obvious differences we have found in our own travels between areas considered to be in the “bible-belt” and areas that are not. Eventually I brought up our readings and discussions in class that were related to mission work and the article “To Hell with Good Intentions” by Ivan Illich. My brother, one who devoted most of his undergrad and graduate studies to sustainable development, and my older sister who has a deep interest in world cultures, and Maggie who has had an intimate view of special communities around the world through editing documentaries, and her own travels, jumped at the chance to discuss their viewpoints on the subject. Around the table we discussed the importance of knowing, as much as possible by an outsider, the intricacies of the culture you are hoping to aid, and ensuring that through the aid, you stay true to the culture’s beliefs and values and provide a manner in which the community can maintain and eventually develop further whatever improvement methods that have been put in place.

William brought up a good example. He told a story about methods of development within the coffee industry and the importance of ensuring that development is sustainable without outside support. Often times companies will send in people and materials for farmers in South America to start up a coffee bean plantation. At first the farmers are doing well and make use of the materials provided. However, eventually, it often becomes apparent that the coffee plant seeds sent to that area are unable to grow in that climate and so the farmers now have an entire industry full of workers, buyers, and supplies without a product they were able to maintain. This leads to the farmers becoming worse off than they were before the outside help came in. Not much argument followed that evidence.

Religion of our respective communities and childhood led us into the obvious differences we have found in our own travels between areas considered to be in the “bible-belt” and areas that are not. Eventually I brought up our readings and discussions in class that were related to mission work and the article “To Hell with Good Intentions” by Ivan Illich. My brother, one who devoted most of his undergrad and graduate studies to sustainable development, and my older sister who has a deep interest in world cultures, and Maggie who has had an intimate view of special communities around the world through editing documentaries, and her own travels, jumped at the chance to discuss their viewpoints on the subject. Around the table we discussed the importance of knowing, as much as possible by an outsider, the intricacies of the culture you are hoping to aid, and ensuring that through the aid, you stay true to the culture’s beliefs and values and provide a manner in which the community can maintain and eventually develop further whatever improvement methods that have been put in place.William brought up a good example. He told a story about methods of development within the coffee industry and the importance of ensuring that development is sustainable without outside support. Often times companies will send in people and materials for farmers in South America to start up a coffee bean plantation. At first the farmers are doing well and make use of the materials provided. However, eventually, it often becomes apparent that the coffee plant seeds sent to that area are unable to grow in that climate and so the farmers now have an entire industry full of workers, buyers, and supplies without a product they were able to maintain. This leads to the farmers becoming worse off than they were before the outside help came in. Not much argument followed that evidence.

Further conversation followed surrounding themes of responsible stewardship of the things in which you have been given, social obligations, general life advice, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. Although there was only one person at my Kentucky Kitchen Table that I didn’t know well, I feel like I gained a deeper understanding of how those closest to me view the world we live in. It gave me a new perspective on what these particular members of society expect from others; a willingness to engage in society and be an active participant in things that affect the whole. I think this conversation relates to the entire theme of the class, answering the three questions; how can we live better together, how can we have more of a say over our own lives and contribute to others having more of a say over their own lives, and how can we solve problems? All of the topics that we have discussed thus far in class have contributed, albeit in a small way, to solving those wicked problems. 

All in all, I learned that by asking questions and listening to those around us, we can all learn a little bit more about one another and about our differences, uniting us all into citizenship under one nation, and one people all sharing the same planet. Maybe through this greater understanding, we can learn to live better with one another, and be better stewards of the world we live in.

Good people, good food, and good conversation. That’s a Kentucky kitchen table.

Pasta with Perspective

By Avery

My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place at my home in Murray, KY on November 4, 2018. This project highly intimidated me at first because I did not know whom I would invite. I live in a single parent home with my mom and my 15-year-old sister Annabel. Originally, I planned on asking my sister to invite a friend over and calling that good enough, but as the day of the meal began approaching, I realized that doing so would bypass the entire goal of this experience. Sitting around a table with two teenage girls and my mom would be nothing new to me—it is basically what I have done my entire life.

After I told my mom more about the purpose of the Kentucky Kitchen Table—to engage in meaningful conversation, embrace diversity, and foster new relationships—she was thrilled that she could be a part of it. Immediately she began reaching out to individuals in our community who she thought would add something to the table, and before I knew it, there were seven of us gathered around my dining room!

After church on Sunday, my mom and I began the massive task of preparing our house for visitors. We had dishes to clean, floors to sweep, and food to cook. We decided to provide the main course for our guests and asked them to bring desserts. To eat we had a tortellini dish with garlic bread, and for dessert our guests brought peppermint bark, cupcakes, and Oreo balls. The guests at my kitchen table were my mom, Molly, Annabel (15), Ainsley (15), Peggy, Rachel, and my Grandma Ann.

My mom, Molly, is from Paris, TN. She moved to Murray after high school to attend Murray State University. After graduating from MSU with a degree in Occupational Safety and Health, she got married to my dad. My sister and I were born shortly after. My parents divorced when I was two years old, but they still have a healthy relationship; my dad actually lives one street over from my mom. When I was around five, my mom decided to go back to school full time, while also working full time, in order to get her degree in Elementary Education. Today my mom is a third-grade teacher at an elementary school, and she teaches English online to children in China through a program called VIPKid. My mom has instilled in me the value of education and she has demonstrated to me the importance of finding a career I love.

My sister, Annabel, is 15 years old, and she is the exact opposite of me. Annabel is extremely feisty, athletic, outspoken, and dramatic. In school she is a sophomore, and she is involved in several sports: volleyball, softball, and basketball. Annabel is also very talented. She has acted in several musicals and has competed at various levels in speaking contests for different clubs and organizations. As of right now, Annabel wants to be an FBI agent when she grows up, which fits her personality perfectly.

Ainsley is one of Annabel’s close friends. She is also a sophomore in high school and 15 years old. Ainsley and Annabel have been friends for a while, but their friendship solidified when they became improv duo partners on the speech team in middle school. Together, Ainsley and Annabel are dynamic. In school, Ainsley is a leader. She is an officer in several clubs and is also a class officer. She runs track and cross country, and at the time of this meal, she had recently returned from the state cross country meet.

It is only appropriate to introduce Peggy and Rachel together. These ladies are both older and attend the same Baptist church as my family does. Upon first meeting these two, they can easily be mistaken as sisters—they even call each other sister and will tell you that they share a mother. In fact, Peggy and Rachel are just extremely close friends. When their husbands were alive, both couples traveled the world together and made incredible memories. Today, both ladies are widows and have since moved into a duplex together. Rachel lives on one side of the duplex with her 94-year-old mother, and Peggy lives right next door. Rachel is a retired elementary school teacher, and Peggy is still working at JCPenney in Murray, and she has been for almost 20 years. I have only met Rachel and Peggy probably once in my life before this day. My mom met them through a bible study at church, where the ladies decided to adopt her as their little sister.

Finally, my Grandma Ann, who lives in Paris, TN, was also present at my kitchen table. My Grandma is the daughter of immigrants from Czechoslovakia and grew up in Pittsburg, PA. My grandma was raised Catholic and is still a practicing Catholic today. After she married my grandpa, he started his own company called Universal Coatings, which is focused on lining the insides of trailers with protective coatings to prepare them for shipping. My Grandparents had five kids—4 sons and my mom, who is the youngest by several years. My mom often jokes that she was an only child because the house was basically empty by the time she came along. Today, my grandpa has since passed away, but my grandma has kept the family business alive with the help of my uncle Tom. My Grandma goes to work at the shop every weekday, and she says she will continue to do so until it is impossible for her to do so.

Our conversation started off by discussing the value of hard work. Peggy obviously believed working was an important part of living a meaningful life, as she goes to work every single day at JCPenney. Side note: she said she is dreading Black Friday, but it is also her favorite work day of the year. While Rachel does not work anymore, she actively volunteers with meals on wheels twice a week and finds evidence in the importance of work through her 94-year-old mother, who still cleans the church every week. Everyone at the table agreed that working hard throughout life is what keeps people young. This was an interesting conversation to have from the perspective of older people who are working by choice and not to make a living.

A little later, I introduced the required question, “beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” I purposely warned Annabel of this question days in advance—hoping she would come up with something meaningful to add to the conversation. I was disappointed, but not surprised, when she only responded with “I think pretty much the same thing everyone else said.” Despite that failure, this question did spark interesting conversation about building communities, lending a helping hand, and the controversial issue of government “hand-outs.” Rachel had the most insightful answer to this question: she said that being a good citizen was about stepping up when you are needed and working to make your community a better place. This part of the conversation reminded me of “The Energy Diet” because we discussed how small actions can end up making a big difference in the long run. Smiling at people, introducing yourself to your neighbors, and being a servant to those are around you are all small steps that can be taken to build a community. Ainsley brought up the point that part of being a good citizen was working hard to go beyond what is required of you. The older women around the table had very strong opinions about people who do not work to earn their living, which did not surprise me. They believed part of being a good citizen was doing your part in society and that being unemployed is the exact opposite of that.

The rest of our conversation was typical of what you would find around a dinner table. Peggy and Rachel talked about their recent trip to Iceland. Ainsley talked about the sports she was involved in and discovered that Rachel is the grandmother of two of her teammates! My sister mentioned that she wanted to be in the FBI, and everyone roared with excitement—urging her to continue following that dream.

Another reading that I feel my Kentucky Kitchen Table experience connects with would be “How We Talk Matters” by Keith Melville. At one point in the article, the author discusses the importance of informal conversation, and how that can help us explore who we are and what we are concerned about. At my kitchen table I had the opportunity to engage in conversation that allowed me to see into the lives of others whom I might have never talked to before. I would not have had the opportunity to gain their unique perspectives by any other means.

Going into this project I thought it was just going to be another pointless, time-consuming task, but it ended up being very enjoyable for all of us involved. My mom rarely has people over anymore, so she was excited to have the opportunity to open our home. My grandma, Peggy, and Rachel talked like old friends and have started making plans to get together again. Through this experience I was reminded of the value of human connection. As cliché as it sounds, it had been so long since I gathered around a table with anyone other than family or close friends. When I was younger, it was not uncommon for us to have meals with neighbors, co-workers, or church family, but now we hardly ever do so. It is so neat how people who have no reason to relate to each other can find so much in common just by having a conversation. That thought reminds me of one of our central questions: “how can we live better together?” Maybe if we all took the time to slow down and engage in conversation, we could gain a better understanding of where people are coming from. Just simply talking to someone you would not normally talk with can open your eyes to a completely different perspective.

table

Pictured from left to right: Rachel, Peggy, Ann, Annabel, Ainsley, and Molly. I took the photo, so I am not pictured.

thank you

A thank you note my family received from Rachel the day after our meal. “Little sister” refers to my mom– as I mentioned they adopted her.

Kerby’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Kerby

KentuckyKitchenTableI hosted my Kentucky Kitchen Table Project in my hometown of Bowling Green on Friday, November 2nd, 2018. The dinner took place at my home around our dinner table. We had to put two tables together to accommodate everyone. I was able to partner with my classmate Megan for the assignment. In total, we had 8 guests come to my home, with a total of 10 people in attendance. Since Megan is a vegetarian, I made sure that everyone brought food she could eat. John and Renee brought lasagna and garlic bread; Beverly, Eddie, Spencer, and Dalton brought salad ingredients; Kim and Owen made cream cheese corn and brownies for dessert; Megan brought french fries; and I brought tea and lemonade for drinks.

Megan is a freshman at WKU who is from Nashville, Tennessee. She is majoring in English with a minor in photojournalism. John is a retired professor who once worked for WKU. John is diverse because of his age and because of his health problems. He is also from West Virginia, as is his wife Renee. He and his wife  met when they were in college at Marshall University in West Virginia. Renee is also a professor at the community college in Bowling Green. She spends most of her free time volunteering with SKyPAC in town. She also supported her daughter’s high school activities by volunteering on many boards at Bowling Green High School. Beverly and her husband Eddie brought both of their sons to the dinner, Spencer and Dalton. Beverly and Eddie both have a high school diploma. They met their senior year of high school in Louisville, Kentucky. They used to work in retail and ran a small business for many years. They now work at General Motors Assembly Plant in Bowling Green. Their son Dalton is a twice college dropout who works at Kroger. Spencer is currently enrolled at SKYCTC to study computer science and become a programer. Owen, who is my brother, is a high school graduate who works as a security guard for the General Motors Assembly Plant. He is currently enrolled in school to become a law enforcement officer, and he recently joined the National Guard. He is diverse because of his youth and his political affiliation as more right leaning. Kim, my mom, is a single mother of three who works as an operations planner at a factory called Essity that has international reach. She has also recently gone through many life changes including her first child going off to college and losing nearly one-hundred pounds in the past sixteen months.

As people were introducing themselves, one common theme came up among many of the guests and that was the importance of doing service in the Bowling Green community. Many of our guests thought this was something that made them have diverse experiences. I asked why doing service in our community was important and Beverly said “what if it were me who needed an extra hand?” Many guests echoed these thoughts. We should help our neighbors in times of need. That statement reminded me of the chapter in Love Thy Neighbor about the Bosnian civil war. During the war, people who grew up right next to each other started killing one another overnight. The story the chapter tells is strikingly antithetical to the conversation we were having around my kitchen table.  I am glad to know that people in my community do not share this survival of the fittest mentality expressed in the reading, and they are willing to give a helping hand. However, John believed that service was just a requirement of his job. It’s something he had to do for work, and it doesn’t extend further than that. At the same time, he would help those who are in desperate need of it, but he does not actively choose to serve the larger Bowling Green community outside of what is required of him.

We also discussed the health industry and hospital bills. John was a professor in health education at WKU so he was able to contribute a lot to the discussion of how payment works in hospitals. John has also suffered from several health issues for the past ten years, issues that actually caused him to go into retirement. Many of the guests complained of how expensive everything is in the healthcare industry. Eddie even made the comment that some industries are not designed to make a profit, such as hospitals and universities. As a society, we push the numbers too much. That also brought up a discussion about workers rights since many of our guests work in factories here in Bowling Green. At Kim’s work, Essity, the company is planning to eliminate over 1,000 jobs worldwide to reduce costs. They care more about the bottom line than those who work for them.

When I asked “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” there was a silence that followed. Everyone had to really think about the question, which shows me they may have never contemplated it before. Owen brought up the caravan of immigrants that is moving through Southern America up to the United States. This of course led to a discussion about immigration and President Donald Trump’s latest ramblings on changing the fourteenth amendment with an executive order. But then  the conversation took a turn and we started to have a discussion of what it means to be a good citizen. It echoed much of what we discussed in class about citizenship last Thursday. John said that as long as you work and contribute to our society, he does not care how you get here or what your background is. He added that before World War II, citizenship was not even something the government kept track of. If you crossed the borders into the United States and felt like a U.S. citizen, you were one; that was all it took. We have only recently developed this high standard of citizenship in which people must pass a citizenship test and live in the United States for so many years before they can become a U.S. citizen.

Citizenship is helping the people around you. It is knowing your neighbors and lending them a hand when they need it. It is having dinner with friends and talking about more than what is going on in the world. It is about learning how your friends met each other, or how they met their spouse. It is about discussing your past selves, where you grew up, or where your family is from. It is about how you were raised and how that has impacted your worldview. It is about being able to disagree on a subject while also being able to find a common ground in that subject or on anything. It is about recognizing that all humans are equal, despite what country they are citizens of or how they obtained their citizenship in our country.

After the dinner and as we were cleaning up, Kim was discussing with Megan and I about how nice it was to host this dinner. We each enjoyed having conversations we otherwise would not have had. We were able to discuss and talk about issues in a civil manner, and we were all tolerant of disagreement. We were able to find common ground on most anything. However, even if we could not find that common ground, we still respected the opinions of the people around us. Kim made the comment that we should do dinners like this more often because it is important to talk about how we have been shaped by our country, but more importantly how we can shape our country. This reminded me greatly of chapter ten in “The Impossible Will Take a Little While” called Reluctant Activists by Mary Pipher. This is the chapter about the Keystone XL Pipeline that the corporation Trans-Canada planned to cut through the midwestern United States to build, destroying homes and farmland along the way. Ms. Pipher hated the thought of the pipeline running through her area, so she invited some friends to her home to discuss how they felt about it. They gathered around her kitchen table and just talked with one another about what they knew in regards to the pipeline. They agreed that they did not like it and that action needed to be taken, so they made a game plan and met again and again. All it took to put an end to the Keystone XL Pipeline were a few conversations around a kitchen table and with people from their hometown. These regular people started a movement.

Before the dinner, I knew the names and faces of everyone invited. However, after having the dinner, I know them on a much more personal level. I know how they met their partner; I know some of the struggles they have experienced; I know more about their beliefs religiously and politically, but most importantly, I know how to keep having those conversations. That’s what this project was all about for me. It was about learning how to have and seek out those conversations. When problems in my community arise, I am better equipped to speak with my neighbors about how they feel on an issue and taking their thoughts/opinions to develop collaborative solutions.

Mallory’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

 

By Mallory

I conducted my Kentucky Kitchen Table on November 3rd, 2018. I did it around my own kitchen table in Hodgenville, Kentucky. There were eight people present. Vicky, who works part time as an accountant, Darin, who owns his own business and has held multiple management positions, Kenny, who is a retired veteran and has a tax business, Ruth who is retired, Rita, who is also retired but holds many responsibilities in her community, Kathryn, who is a college student, Jessica, who did not graduate from college but holds a job that pay minimum wage, and myself, another college student. I described every one’s job because it felt it had an important impact on the conversation that took place at this Kentucky Kitchen Table.

The people at this Kentucky Kitchen Tables all come from different backgrounds, political parties, and communities. With that being said, there still wasn’t much difference in the answers to the question “beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Darin answered first with “freedom.” I thought this was very interesting and I thought someone would answer with a specific action that citizens do. Following that, Rita joined in and started talking about how it is our job as citizens to be informed and to inform others in the community. I also thought this was unique because it lead me to ask the question “do you think we have any obligations to other people in our country or community?” To my surprise, everyone around the table said yes. I found this shocking because everyone agreed even coming from different political parties, as usually, Republicans and Democrats have different views on who helps who.

The next part of the conversation dealt with the community. Even though people came from different communities, all of them being from Kentucky made them similar in the way that they are all small communities. The conversation started with a broad question about the world and the best part about it. Kenny jumped in and talked about freedom once again and the rights that citizens have in the United States specifically. Everyone continued with things like resources and money. Kathryn, being a college student, talked about education and how everyone has the right to education and how that has helped our world grow and become a better place, as people are more informed. This sparked interest in most people, since it was something people didn’t think about at first since everyone goes to school because it is just what you do in the United States. This lead into how blessed we all were to live where we do. The United States may sometimes seem like it is about to fall through, communities as well, but ultimately there are a lot of things, like education, that we take for granted. As citizens, we have a lot of responsibilities, but we also have a lot of rights, even if we don’t choose to take part in each. We also have rights in our communities that make us part of that community. Coming from small communities, everyone at this Kentucky Kitchen Table was describing the positives of their small communities. Rita started with knowing a lot of people. I agreed with this statement as it helped me get to the place I am in my life. Knowing people in your community makes it easier to communicate and, in some ways, helps make the community stronger.

Next was family. I asked the question, “did you ever have meals around the table with your family or neighbors growing up?” Mostly everyone answered yes to having family dinners. Ruth mentioned her family being close with some neighbors but never really having dinner around a kitchen table with them. She did, however, mention taking dinner in times of need and just going over to talk. I found this very relevant as well. I live in a neighborhood and know most of the people that live within. This also comes with a close community. My neighbors and my family will get together and talk all the time and even sometimes have dinner together. We all thought it was important for families to sit down and eat dinner together because it is a time to reflect on the day and take a break from our busy lives. I know for me personally, when I was younger my dad worked a lot and the only time I really saw him was at the dinner table. We were able to talk and relax until he had to go back to work, but it also made me think about what he was doing for my family. Within this conversation I asked the question about people’s jobs. As Vicky pointed out, money isn’t everything, but everyone at the table agreed that it helped if you had some. Everyone reflected on their lives at a younger age and realized that everyone worked in order to provide for their families. Kenny talked about working when he could to help out his parents. Darin told a story of his college years when he would come home every weekend in order to mow yards and make some money to help pay for his college. Me, being a college student, thought about how much college cost. I know college wasn’t as expensive when he went as it is now, but I also know he wasn’t making a ton of money mowing yards. This made me realize how much people have changed when it comes to jobs. It is a stereotypical saying, but todays work force doesn’t have the work ethic that people used to have. If everyone would have the same work ethic as people did twenty years ago, I feel that our world would be a better place because they would feel a sense of pride because they have something to work for.

The last part of the conversation was centered around people from different backgrounds. There are two people in my family who have significant others from different countries. With that being said, I have a lot of personal experiences with them. Rita, however, brought up another good point: people from the north are different. Being from Kentucky, we like to think we have “southern hospitality.” Rita recently took a trip to Connecticut to visit her family and celebrate her granddaughter’s college graduation. She talked to everyone about how she felt the people from the north are a lot different than the people from the south because they have different backgrounds than us. I think it is interesting how people notice such small things when they are speaking or interacting with others. From there I shared my experiences from high school when I was friends with our foreign exchange students. I loved talking to them and seeing how our lives differed just because of where we lived in the world. Darin also brought up one of his past coworkers who was from Turkey. He said similar things about talking to people with different backgrounds, but he also pointed out that the person he was talking with liked the United States and was curious to learn more about it.

Overall, I liked this assignment because I feel like it helped me understand citizenship and our world, country and community better. There were things brought up about citizenship that I hadn’t thought of and basically have taken advantage of since I’ve been alive. I also learned how important communities are. I think part of being a good citizen is getting involved in your community in order to help your community grow. In order to do that, you must communicate with those in your community and grow bonds. I know recognize how much goes into being a citizen, so hopefully I can start being a better one and so will everyone else at this Kentucky Kitchen Table.

Meredith’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Meredith

I went home to Louisville, Kentucky on Sunday, November 4th with the intent of having my Kentucky Kitchen Table meal with my four intermediate family members and my 17-year-old brother’s girlfriend. This assignment ended up turning into a surprise 19th birthday dinner for myself, and I was greeted by my paternal aunt, grandmother and grandfather whom I rarely dine with. In fact, I rarely dine with my immediate family either. Our family dinners around the dining table died out long ago, around the time that I picked up competitive swimming and my youngest brother graduated from Wilder Elementary and enrolled in Meyzeek Middle School. Things got busy, so we all filtered in and out of the kitchen at whatever time convenienced us, saying not much more than, “Hello!” when in passing. I’ve only been home once before this since starting school at Western Kentucky University, so I was excited to have a family gathering in the comforts of my home and have a home cooked meal instead of swiping into the Fresh Food Company. The surprise of finding my Aunt Sarah, Grandma Marge, and PopPop waiting for me in my doorway as I pulled up was something very special, as they all live in Las Vegas, Nevada, so I rarely see them.

Last minute, my brother’s girlfriend bailed due to having caught a stomach bug. I had been banking on her being the person around my dinner table whom I didn’t know very well, but my aunt, grandmother, and grandfather were great substitutes, as I have only seen them a handful of times in my life, due to the distance between us.

My parents lived very different lives until they met one another, and after that they built their current lives hand-in-hand. My mom, Gail, grew up wealthily in Albuquerque, New Mexico and is of Hispanic descent, which you’d never be able to see past her blonde hair dye. Nonetheless, her Western childhood allows her to bring unique perspectives to the table that my brothers and I, having grown up in Kentucky, would never dream of. At the age of 18 she chose the University of Texas to be her home for the following four years, a college where she knew not a single soul. She spent one of her summers working on an Alaskan oil rig as the lead mechanical engineer, and ended up settling down afterwards in Louisville, Kentucky, working for the General Electric Company (GE). My dad, Scott, grew up very differently. He was born and raised in a tiny town, home to 500 people, in rural New York state near the city of Buffalo. His family grew up without much money and he spent much of his time working. His perspectives are always unexpected to me. I tend to stereotype small-town residents as rather narrow-minded, but my father has the most open mind that I know. He went to school for mechanical engineering, same as my mom, and was also hired on at GE in Louisville at the same time that she was. This is where their story began.

A little later down the line, my parents had me, their first-born. Two years later, they had my 17-year-old brother, Clayton. Clayton is a quiet boy with a good head on his shoulders. People often dismiss him as shy, when he just reserves his words for times that he feels that are of value. Clayton has always been an athlete and played every sport under the sun growing up. Not only did he play them, but he was good at them. I’ve always been jealous of his athletic ability, and of the grace with which he receives praise for his abilities. He is a humble boy and takes after my dad in the way that he is open-minded.

Four years after Clayton, Curtis came along. Curtis is a 13-year-old geek who absolutely loves science, Rubik’s Cubes, magic tricks, swimming, and his trumpet. He is wise beyond his years, dedicated, and passionate. He spends his days in the math, science, and technology magnet program at his middle school, his afternoons at swim practice, and his evenings repeating over and over, “Want to see a magic trick?” At heart, he loves to learn.

My aunt and grandparents made the move from Eden, New York to Vegas a little after my dad made the move to Louisville. There, my aunt married and divorced an ex-sniper, recovered, and eventually settled down with a construction worker named Brandon. Over the years, she somehow managed to collect five dogs, which she refers to as her children. She works in a nursing home and has a unique outlook on life because rather than having experience with children, like most women her age do, she has extensive experience with older folks.

My PopPop and Grandma have been married since before my dad was born and have always been a symbol of a united front to me. No word does my PopPop justice, save for “goofball.” He is a graduate of Syracuse University, as is my grandmother, a retired insurance salesman, a part-time Home Depot employee, and a big trickster. He is a lover of flashlights in any form of fashion, whether they be ten mini-flashlights that strap onto every finger or color-changing toilet bowl lights for better bathroom vision in the nighttime. This passion of his probably makes him well suited for his job at Home Depot. My grandmother is quite the opposite and often comes across as strict. Their love is proof that opposites attract, and I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen them butt heads, despite their polar personality differences. They have a unique perspective, as they have had to raise three kids on an insufficient amount of money and were unable to escape that poverty even after their children graduated on to adulthood. They ended up declaring bankruptcy, which rocked their world and ours. Many things changed during that period of their lives, and they see things a lot differently now.

I began our discussion while peeling potatoes at the kitchen counter with my mom, aunt and grandmother while the boys prepared the meat. I was disappointed in the fact that my aunt and grandparents reserved themselves for most of the conversation, but they provoked and enabled my intermediate family to dive into a discussion deeper than one we’d ever had before. This depth could not have been reached without their facilitation. It ended up with the three of them asking some of the questions that I had prepared from the list of questions we were provided with in class, which I found to be interesting. It showed that concerns regarding citizenship are relatively universal: they span generations, genders, geographic differences, differences in financial status, and so many factors that could segregate populations, even ones small enough to fit in my kitchen. I thought it was cool that the conversation took the turns that I had anticipated, but that nobody else around the table knew were premeditated. I had been worried that conversation would seem unnatural with all the prompting I planned to do, but I should have saved my worry for something that deserved it more!

I already knew that my mother was registered Republican, my father was registered Independent, and my grandfather was a big Trump supporter. I was unaware of the political affiliations of everyone else around the table, including my own. I was a bit afraid that our conversation would be solely political, but it was the opposite. My mom’s Republican affiliation shown through her answers a bit as most of them involved leading a Christian life and acting as a light to others, while my dad’s answers were a bit more exploratory and varied in terms of religion and logic. My grandfather cracked a few Trump jokes, but nothing serious or overbearing. I expected this.

I was most surprised by my brothers’ answers. Of 13 and 17-year-old boys, I didn’t expect much. They’re still fooling around and growing up along the way and at times I wonder whether they really put much thought into things like citizenship, community, and their own obligations to the society as human beings. My brothers don’t have much experience in the real world, so I couldn’t fathom how they could formulate the real-world answers that I was looking for.

Despite this, Clayton ended up drawing a lot upon his lifeguarding job, saying that it taught him about fiscal responsibility which allowed him, in turn, to consider donating to causes that he had only supported morally until then. He said that his job helped him meet more people in the neighborhood which taught him about the importance of a united community. This also showed him something he had always had but always taken for granted: the fact that my parents had introduced him to every last one of our neighbors and that he knew there was always someone around to help him in times of emergency, spare him an egg, or shoot basketball with. He also learned about the importance of genuinely caring for the well-being of others. He mentioned that while it is difficult to attend to a few hundred people in a 50-meter long pool for hours in the hot sun, he learned how to pay attention even when it was difficult because not only did he not want to be in trouble with his boss if a drowning occurred on his watch, but he didn’t want that loss on his own conscience either.

Curtis also spouted out some impressive answers that I figured he was incapable of. He didn’t have a summer lifeguarding job to refer to for validation of his answers, so I knew that everything he was saying was something that he genuinely felt, not something that he had personally experienced, watched, or been taught. When asked whether his “job” served a greater purpose, he acknowledged that while he did not have a part-time or full-time job that was paying him checks bi-weekly, he was a student and his time in school was spent learning valuable skills that would one day enable him to earn a job that helps others. He aspires to be in the military, and I believe his hopes of that were the driving force behind the answer he provided. Later, Curtis made my favorite astounding comment of the night. When asked what advice he would give to someone running for office, he said, “I would tell them not to do things because of their political identity. I would tell them to make decisions and do things the way they know is right.” Politics and leadership are complicated in ways that Curtis’s innocent brain can’t comprehend, but sometimes it’s necessary to take the seriousness down a notch and remember that we simply need to upkeep the best version of our country to later pass on to Curtis’s generation. While he’s too young to register as a voter, I think that if he holds onto this simplistic piece of advice, our country will be in good hands when it comes his time. His comment reminded me of “If It Feels Right” by David Brooks. The article discussed morality in terms of it being in its decline, but Curtis reminded me that sometimes going by your gut feeling is for the best.

Through this discussion, I learned a lot of the same things that I’ve learned in class but never really seen played out in my household. It’s not necessarily that these themes haven’t been prioritized-citizenship, morality, religion, etc.-but we’ve never actually sat down and discussed the driving forces behind them all. Our discussion also reminded me of “The Energy Diet” by Andrew Postman. Postman noted that even just the tiniest intentional expenditures of energy could make a big difference. I realized that my family members, specifically my brothers, have been making these tiny intentional expenditures of energy all along, when I just thought they were stumbling through life, accidentally becoming good, respectable citizens and neighbors.

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Pictured from left to right are Clayton, Curtis, myself, my mom Gail above me, my Aunt Sarah next to me, my PopPop, and my dad, Scott. My Grandma Marge insisted on taking the picture because she wasn’t “camera ready.”