Sean’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Sean

On Friday October the 12th I did my Kentucky kitchen table project in Crestwood, Kentucky, which is outside of Louisville, Kentucky. I did this in my childhood home. Including myself there was a total of seven of us, all were my parents’ friends that they have known from church. These people were different ages and did different things in life, so they had all different experiences. Even though I was a little nervous for the experience and the discussion, I was pleasantly surprised by everyone’s answer and had a great time discussing with all that participated.

The first person at the dinner is Cindy. A 52-year-old white female mother of 3 a widow in her second marriage, she has  BA in English, she has education degree and a Master of Arts and teaching. She is currently a sales clerk and an invitation maker. She is an artist and a truly nice person. She is religious and goes to church on a regular basis.

Andrew, who is the significant other of Cindy, a 51-year-old white male, recently married, he has a degree in business in technology from the University of Kentucky and a bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky University in business and behavioral science. He is a luthier, so that means he repairs string instruments he’s in a blues and jazz band and he plays guitar. While he was religious when he was growing up he does not currently go to church anymore.

Mark, a 56-year-old white male who is an engineer, with a master’s degree and MBA who went to the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. Mark is a very creative man who has a wood shop in his basement, and he helped me once create a case for my grandfather’s American flag from when he was buried, so he is a very helpful man and very kind. And like Andrew he is musically inclined and plays music regularly for church. He currently works in the health care service. He has always been a Christian person and goes to church regularly.

Laura, a 54-year-old white female, who is a mother of four. She is a registered nurse with a BSN from Vanderbilt University. She is a very nice person who is the wife of Mark, and like Mark she is also religious and goes to church regularly as well.

Terry, my father, a 53-year-old white male who works in health care for kindred health care. He got a communications degree from Vanderbilt University, and a sports management degree from The Ohio State University. He grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, which when he was growing up wasn’t a very big place at least compared to now. And he grew up in a religious household and continues to stay very religious to this day going to Middletown Christian Church.

Carrie, my mother and wife of terry, a 56-year-old white female, who is a retired fourth grade elementary school teacher of 33 years. She received a teaching degree from the University of Wisconsin at River falls and a master’s degree in education from the University of Louisville. She also grew up very Religious In Hudson, Wisconsin and still continues to go to church also at Middletown Christian Church.

And then there’s me, Sean, a freshman at Western Kentucky, I too grew up religiously and still go to church.

The first thing that I asked to my group of people was the required question, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” I got mostly the same answer from everybody, that citizenship is really just always about helping your fellow man and respecting each and everybody that is around you in everyday life. This could be someone you know extremely well like your best friend or this could be someone who you’ve never even met before like someone who needs help taking groceries to their car at the store. We talked about being a good citizen who contributes to their society is just someone who makes the society they live in better. This goes along well with one our three essential questions, “How can people live better (or, at the least, less badly) together?” Because we discussed that a good citizen really does try to just live together better with everyone, not just the people they know and like. These answers could all be a result of the religion of the people who came to my dinner. Everyone who came was a Christian in one way or another, and one of the key values of Christianity is helping people, so this definitely influenced them to want to help others a citizen.

We talked about a lot of different questions from the list in the handout which led to other questions, but one of the first questions I asked as the leader of the discussion was, “Does your religious or spiritual identity relate to how you think we should treat other people? Does it relate to how you see yourself as a citizen?” Like I talked about before they talked a lot about how going to church and growing up in Christian household, influenced the way they treat other people and that it has had such an impact in all of their lives. They all talked about how to love to help people, because it’s the way they are now. But sometimes it really makes them guilty that they have all this stuff and a lot of people don’t really have anything. So, I told them about what we talked about in class. That a lot of times we feel guilty about people having a lot less than us and being less fortunate. While it’s okay to feel bad for those people, because that’s just basic human empathy, you shouldn’t feel guilty but instead thankful that you have all that you do. Because you shouldn’t feel guilty for working hard and being rewarded for that hard work.

This relates to the reading by Ivan Illich’s speech, “To Hell With Good Intentions.” In this reading he talks all about how sometimes we feel so guilt ridden about the less fortunate that we try to go to those places with the less fortunate and help them out, but in the process,  we sometime impose ourselves too much on the cultures we are trying to help and end up doing more harm than good. So, our religion can be a good thing and help us know the right thing to do, other times it can cause us to do stupid and irresponsible things too.

We also discussed the questions, “How do you think your job relates to your role as a citizen?  Do you see your job as serving a greater purpose?” They all had something to say for this. Both Mark and my dad, Terry, work for health care companies. While Mark works for a nonprofit, Norton Healthcare, and Terry works for a for-profit healthcare company, they both say that they feel like they really help people live better lives because they can live healthier lives. Laura who is a Registered Nurse gave a similar answer saying that she feels she lets people live longer and better lives than they would if she wasn’t there to help them. My mom, Carrie is a retired teacher, so she felt that since she got to help mold the minds of the future and help kids learn things that they might not learn if they didn’t go to school or have her as a teacher, so she felt like she helps to create the citizens of the future and instill her good values on them. Then there’s Cindy and she helps to create specialized cards for various events which might not seem like much, but if very special because she can help people realize their dreams, and celebrate them in a good fashion, like she can help people create very cool cards if they’re getting married. This is very special because she can make people’s special moments even more special. And lastly there’s Andrew who is a luthier, which means he is a creator or repairer of stringed instruments. This may just seem likes he fixes up guitars, but it’s a lot more than that. As he explained it, he helps people to repair family heirlooms, like if they had a guitar that was passed down from generation to generation that was very special to the family then he could help restore it. By doing this he helps people keep something that is very special to them and to their family. This show we all have something to bring to the table when helping the world.

And lastly, we talked about the question, “Do you know your neighbors? Why or why not?” And we talked about how a lot of us don’t really know our neighbors all that well unless we have something in common with them, like we had kids the same age or similar jobs, etc. I just thought that this was interesting that not a lot of us know our neighbors.

What I learned from this experience overall is that we all have something to contribute to the world whether it’s something big or small, no effort that can be given to the betterment of humanity is too small. I learned that every once and awhile it’s beneficial to work together and talk about bigger issues with people, because it can help us become better citizens in our own societies.

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Left to Right, Terry, Carrie, Andrew, Cindy, Laura, Mark, and I’m (Sean) on the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kentucky Kitchen Table – Alex

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My name is Alex and I conducted my Kentucky Kitchen table on April 1st in my hometown of Crestwood. My Kentucky Kitchen Table had eight people/two families attend. I am a freshman undergraduate student at Western Kentucky University studying physics and Chinese. My sister, Chloe, is a sophomore at Oldham County High School and often participates in drama productions. My parents are Colleen and Terry and they both work in Louisville as salespeople. The other family that attended has two daughters Elena, who participates in Oldham County High School’s band as a senior flute player, and Olivia, who is on the Oldham County High School female soccer team as a freshman. Their parents are Andrea and Damon, Andrea is a substitute teacher in the area, and Damon works at the Ford plant in Louisville.

The first thing I did after we all got our food was ask everyone the required question “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” My father was the first one to answer. He talked about his military service and how being an American citizen means representing American ideals abroad. He mentioned that when he was in the military he was deployed to West Germany he was constantly told that he was a representative of America during his time abroad. While representing America abroad he thought it was extremely important to embody what he thought America stands for, namely freedom and justice for all.

Damon answered next saying something similar and talking a lot about the time that he spent in the military while he was younger. He thinks that every American citizen has a duty to be a model person for everyone else. He elaborated saying things along the lines as an American citizen it is our duty to help those who suffer from injustices both in America and abroad. He saw America as being a protector of the world in sense and thought that we should do our best to help all impoverished and developing nations. He also talked about the founding fathers and what he thought their ideal citizen would be and how we should all aspire to act like that. In his words, a model citizen would be one who is not afraid to protest what they think to be a bad government and is willing to speak their mind and encounter opposing viewpoints, while at the same time they recognize that freedom of speech allows everyone to voice their own opinion.

Andrea chimed in next saying that being a citizen meant living with everyone else harmoniously. She said that as a citizen we have to realize that we are just a part of America as a whole and have a responsibility to live with everyone else. As a citizen we should realize that what might be in our personal best interest might not be the best for a majority of people. Colleen agreed with her saying, being a citizen means that sometimes we have to put the needs of others before our self because we live together in an integrated society.

I said that being a citizen meant that you have the responsibility to try to improve the country you live in to the best of your knowledge. By that I mean the duty of all citizens is to make sure that the government is taking the best care of its citizens as possible. Whether that means actively participating in a democracy or protesting the unjust treatment of some citizens by the government, I believe that being a citizen means that you have a responsibility to look out for other citizens and yourself through whatever means are available to you. The three high school girls all thought along the same lines as me saying that being a citizen means that you should actively participate in government if possible, whether that be through running for office, voting, or protesting.

After that required question the conversation turned back into regular topics that you would discuss at a regular dinner such as, how have things been going recently, how is school going etc. School was a heavily discussed topic for many reasons. Elena is a senior in high school, so everyone wanted to know where she was thinking about going to college. Because of that we discussed the role of college in America and what the benefits and disadvantages of it were currently. All four parents had gone to college, I was the only current college student at the table, and all three high school girls had plans to eventually go to college themselves. Because of each of our different experiences, we all had different opinions on what going to college meant. All four adults agreed that in order to have a better chance at getting a good job it is very important to go to college; however, they also acknowledged that trade schools and community colleges were helpful and sometime necessary steps in getting there. The two fathers were especially adamant about needing to go to college to have a successful future and mentioned how they both went into the military in order to independently pay for the cost. As a current college student, I chimed in saying that the price of college has dramatically risen in the time since the four adults had gone to college and not only is it much harder for everyone to go to college today, it is probably more important for people to go as well. I am extremely lucky to not have to worry about my financial situation as an undergraduate currently; however, I chose to not have loans instead of going to a different university. Elena, the high school senior, echoed my sentiments saying she is currently having a difficult time choosing between what is considered a better university and a university where she won’t have to have student loans. In addition to that, in my field of study, physics, it is almost automatically assumed that I have to go to graduate school in order to eventually find a good job. Because of that I have to take into consideration that I will spend more time and more money in higher education and have to plan my future accordingly. At the end of that discussion everyone agreed that getting a higher education is some form is in a large majority of cases the best decision, but there are some situations where the disadvantages may seem too large a difficulty to overcome so not pursuing more education would be the better path.

The topic of conversation stayed with schools but shifted from universities to high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools. This was because of the recent changes made to the teacher’s pensions by the state legislature. This resulted in Oldham County Schools cancelling school for the previous Friday due to teachers protesting, Andrea had very strong feelings about the changes to the pension fund because she is a substitute teacher and has many friends who are full time teachers in the local area. With the changes to the pensions almost universally hurting teachers, she vehemently opposed the changes to the fund. She mentioned how Kentucky already had one of the approval lowest ratings in the nation from teachers and little to no counties have a functioning teachers union to help teachers in situations like this. All of the kids at the table agreed with her because we all thought that teachers deserve better pay and more respect from the government, especially with how challenging the job can be. There was a differing opinion at the table. My father, Terry, is a pretty hardcore conservative and generally favors changes that can help save the state/federal government money, so for him this change made sense because it was the state government altering the budget to help save more money. He did understand our viewpoints on the topic, but still believed that saving the government money is more important than the cost of reducing teachers’ pensions. For him, the pension cuts were less about the teachers losing money and more about the state relocating funds to better help other people who may need it more.

Overall, hosting this Kentucky Kitchen Table was a learning experience because I never had a conversation like this with my family and friends in this kind of setting. I think that having a political conversation while eating dinner with people you know and are familiar with makes the conversation go much smoother than if you tried it in a different setting or with different people. Everyone feels familiar with a dinner table and if you don’t have anything to say, you don’t have to sit awkwardly and listen to everyone else talk, instead you can enjoy the meal and the conversation. In addition, talking with people you are already familiar with makes it easier to know which topics to avoid because of experiences or extreme opinions, if those exist. At the end of the discussion I felt that everyone had seen a new perspective on at least one topic that we talked about and everyone had thought about politics in a way they hadn’t before. The biggest thing that I think everyone took out of it was that, having a political discussion doesn’t have to be a scary thing that involves a lot of shouting or disagreements but instead can be an insightful conversation.

 

A Night of Reflection

By Ashley

My dinner went a little differently than a typical Kentucky Kitchen Table due to some difficulties in making plans and plans being cancelled so I used my families Thanksgiving dinner for my conversation. Because my mom’s side of the family is so large, we aren’t able to all fit around one table so throughout our Thanksgiving meal I table hopped to ask everyone for their thoughts on some of the discussion questions. The meal took place at my house in the fairly small town of Crestwood, KY which is about 20 minutes from downtown Louisville, however, those in attendance were not all from our town. Kent, my mom’s brother, and Pru, Kent’s wife, are also from Crestwood but they live in a more remote, quiet part of town than we do. Kent was raised in Louisville and is now a pipe fitter and a preacher at his and Pru’s small church. Pru was a rock and roll disk jockey for nearly 30 years till she retired. She now works in the Papa John’s international headquarters located in Louisville in marketing. They are married with one son named Kenny who was also at the dinner. Kenny is currently living in Florence, KY near Cincinnati working as a photographer at a studio. Laura, my mom’s sister, is from Richmond, KY along with her two children Sue and Jay, and Sue’s husband Anthony and their kids Molly and Brock who were also all in attendance. Laura is now retired and spends most her time with her grandkids. Sue is an elementary school teacher, Anthony is a police officer and apart of the armed forces, and Jay is an auto mechanic. My mom’s sister Lisa was also there. She lives in Louisville and works with an insurance company. She shares a house with my Grandma Jean, who was also at dinner, to help her in her old age. My grandma never had a job since her and my grandpa, who has passed away, had 5 children which was a lot to take care of. My mom, dad, and sister were also there. My mom Stacy is flight attendant for Delta and has been flying with them for over 30 years. My dad John works with Humana in their offices in downtown Louisville in the IT department. My parents have been happily married for 29 years now. My sister Rachel is four years older than I am and is going to school at the University of Louisville for English.

To start the conversation with everyone I got around to talking with, I would ask the required question; “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following the laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Almost everyone had the same initial response that was something along the lines of ‘Wow that’s a though question!’ However, after a little goading, I would get an answer out of them and most enjoyed talking about it. I talked to Kent, Kenny, and John all together and Kent and John were thinking similarly in that citizenship meant being apart of a community and helping your neighbors. In addition, they brought up the other benefits we have such as our many freedoms and our ability to run for office, which was a sentiment also shared by Pru. Kenny agreed with those things, but pulled from different life experiences as he is about 30 years younger. To Kenny it meant that so long as he was paying his taxes and following the laws, he had as much value as a person and the ability to use his life however he so wanted to. I found these responses very interesting because of the generational difference and their different life experiences. Neither Kent or John had the perfect life, but they both grew up as your typical boy. They enjoyed playing and watching sports and had good friendships in high school and college. Kenny on the other hand, has been through some tough times. In high school he started having homosexual feelings and he didn’t know what do because he wasn’t sure how his parents would respond as his dad was a preacher. One thing led to another and instead of telling his parents this, he turned to drugs and alcohol and by college, was doing these things quite regularly. He finally got the help he needed and over the last several years has been figuring out who he is as a person, but these experiences have made him grateful for the freedoms he has because he said in other countries he may have been persecuted for living this lifestyle. Instead he’s be able to take his time figuring out who he is and what he wants to do which is what he felt like citizenship meant to him. Sue and Anthony said that to them, citizenship was about being a part of something bigger themselves and being able to come together in times of need, which they really understand because of Anthony’s time in the service. Rachel felt that citizenship was apart of our identity. It is something that has been apart of shaping many different parts of us from obvious ways such as our language and the way we dress to how we view the world and our morals and values. Pru also talked about citizenship shaping how we view the world some. She told us about how working in the international headquarters she was led to many people from other countries, as well as when she was a disk jockey she would work with many artists who were not from America. In these interactions, she learned that so many of them view our citizenship in much higher regard than we do and that they would even know the privileges we have better than we do. This made her realize how many things we take for granted because we live in this generally calm, peaceful place where we don’t feel like we have to worry about these privileges being taken from us because we have citizenship.

From there, I would normally look at the list of questions and ask them one or two more depending on where our conversation about the first question had gone. For example, with John and Kent since we had been talking about benefits of being a citizen, I asked what they thought the best thing about the world was right now which they answered with things such as the availability of information, medicine, and healthcare. It was interesting though because they struggled with answering this question and kept going back to negative things and I would have to remind them I asked about the best things in the world not the worst. It struck me that so often this is how society works and it rubs off on us personally. The news and other media outlets always focus on the bad things in the world, senators write legislation to try and keep making things better, technology companies keep coming out with new and improved products, people always try to make more and more money because what we feel like what we have is never enough. The more society does this, the more I see people in my life changing to this negative outlook on everything, myself included. This is one downfall of citizenship. We are so interconnected that we sometimes struggle to be our own person and not simply become the person society has deemed as ideal. This interconnection can also be a great thing though. When I asked Sue and Anthony what type of community they want to live in, they said a smaller one where the saying “it takes a village to raise a kid,” was reality. One where they would feel safe sending their kids outside to play and where people are helpful. This got me to thinking about my childhood and how many people I have been impacted by, and all the little parts of people that I have adopted as a part of me that have shaped me to be the person I am today. Even now, I realized, I am still growing and changing and being affected by the people who now fill my life.

Overall, this experience was really awesome, and I got to do a lot of reflecting on my own life and learn more about my family and talk to them in way I haven’t before. The central idea of our class I can best relate my personal Kentucky Kitchen Table to is how we can have more say over our lives. I feel like for everyone that I talked to, the questions I asked required a lot of reflection which is a great way to have more say over your life. When you are able to recognize the good things in your life, you can become more grateful and a more joyful person and have a more positive outlook on life. When you are able to recognize the bag things in your life, you can start working on either fixing those bad things or removing them from your life. One reading this related to is the article by Jennifer Roberts, “The Power of Patience: Teaching Students the Value of Deceleration and Immersive Attention.” Reflection requires a lot of patience. It is not always the most fun thing to sit there and look back at our lives when we feel like there are so many things we need to be doing or could be doing to keep moving forward. However, we have to keep in mind that history contains many great lessons that we can learn from to move forward. So as Roberts discussed, by taking time to sit and observe something for a long period of time, the more you will learn and see in that thing. Even during my Kentucky Kitchen Table, the longer I would talk to someone and pry answers out of them, the deeper and more reflective they were able to get.