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.

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Kentucky Kitchen Table

by Briar

Tkkt2.jpghe dinner took place in my hometown of Hodgenville, Kentucky.  There were five people at dinner including myself.  My brother, Cole, who is a senior in high school; he enjoys the outdoors, shooting guns, and plans on joining the United States Marine Corps.  My mother, Cara, is an art teacher at the local elementary school; she enjoys quilting, and the Young and the Restless.  My mom’s friend, Laura, is also a teacher at the elementary school.  Laura is a movie buff, enjoys craft beers, and loves to travel.  Also, at the dinner was my girlfriend, Hannah,she’s a freshman at WKU; she enjoys Netflix, eating pizza, and cuddling with her dog.

We started off with the required question of “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”  This was met with a wide range of opinions.  Cole started by talking about what it means as a future member of the military.  He brought up some great points about how there are so many things that he wants to contribute with his role.  This led into what my Mom wanted to talk about; she believes that as citizens it is our job to continue to move our community and country, as a whole, towards the right direction.  She went on to talk about her job as a teacher, and how she believes that education was the most important thing to do for our country as a citizen.  One quote I thought was memorable was, “without education what this country has become will slowly go backwards.” She then went on to discuss her thoughts on the current legislation in Kentucky (that I’d heard a million times before).  Laura naturally agreed with my Mom as she is also a teacher, and Hannah, who is planning on becoming a teacher as well, also agreed.

The conversation after this went in many different directions.  When asked “What are the greatest things about the world today?”, the majority couldn’t come up with a concrete answer; this struck me as worrisome.  Out of all of them, not one could, off the top of their heads, give me an answer.  Eventually the two teachers decided that the worlds’ children were the greatest treasures we had.  My mother exclaimed, “our children will one day be the people that decide our fate.”  Cole decided that nature is the main source of good in the world, which I am inclined to agree.  This led to a conversation about the continual destruction of the few wild places we have left- both in the United States and abroad.  This topic, as always, led to a sort of hopeless ambiance over the conversation.  Hannah doesn’t believe that there is any one thing that is “good” in today’s society.  She says with the amount of corruption and lack of initiative there just isn’t anything to be very thankful for left.  She goes on to say that there is of course good in the world, but there isn’t anything left to really celebrate.

When asked what they loved about where they lived the majority said the slow, peaceful lifestyle that Hodgenville affords its residents.  It’s the epitome of a small country town, and they loved that.  Hannah made a point about how the small size allowed for a more connected community than some of the larger towns in the area like Elizabethtown or Campbellsville.  Cole likes the nature, and the ability to hunt, fish, and all of the other outdoor activities that he enjoys.  This segwayed into another question, “what would you change about our community?”  Hannah wanted to add more diversity when it came to dining options, “there are hardly any options for fine dining here.” Mom just wanted more diversity in general.  With very few people of color, or any background other than the vast majority of the populace, it is hard to gain a very broad understanding of what the world outside Hodgenville is like for many people.  Laura wished that the lives of other Latino people in the community were better than they are- telling stories of her families struggles, and the adversity that her school kids have to face that many of the Caucasian children don’t have to worry about.  Cole dislikes the education system because of the diminished diversity in classes.  With the majority of electives only being technology based, agriculturally based, or artistically based, he doesn’t think that our school has a very broad range of classes to choose from.

We then tried to figure out a solution to the worlds problems.  Once again, the teachers reverted back to their mantra of education, my brother chose a more aggressive take over the world-esque strategy, and Hannah chose a more loving/taking care of each other way.  I then asked what steps should be taken to implement their solutions- again- the table fell silent. This led to the realization that none of their options have a clear solution.  I then explained to them the idea of a wicked problem, and how that was one of the main focuses of our Honors 251 class.  I then asked if they could think of any wicked problems themselves.  Cole brought up the destruction of nature which is definitely a horrific problem. Mom talked about corruption in politics. Laura (who is Hispanic) talked about immigration. Hannah interestingly brought up Opioids.  We then discussed how these wicked problems affect our everyday lives.  Cole, as an outdoorsman, is saddened by the fact that so much thriving nature is diminishing due to things like pollution, deforestation, and development.  The corruption of government naturally affects the laws, and overall concentration of efforts in our nation; this leads to a constant struggle with what our representatives believe is the correct choice, and the majority of the population.  The immigration topic was particularly polarizing as Laura was for increased immigration and my brother against it altogether.  He admonished that while even though the majority of the United States populace is descended from immigrants, that doesn’t mean that continual immigration is necessarily the answer.  This then led to a discussion about overpopulation, which led to some extreme views from my brother, who then realized that it also had a major impact on the nature discussion we had earlier.  Hannah’s topic of opioids brought up similar questions that we discussed in the class deliberation and was one that we had all experienced in our own community.  Cole’s brutally honest quote, “The world is a messed-up place” is probably the most important realization of the night.  With this, the conversation died down a little, and the only sounds were from eating.

I learned many things from this experiment.  One thing that really stood out to me was the differences in reasoning between Cole and myself.  It struck me as odd that two people that were raised together by the same parents with the same set of moral instructions could be so different in how we see the world.  While we talked, and I realized this, it made me appreciate his part of the discussion more, because he wasn’t exactly like me; I saw things in a way that almost brought me closer to him.  I also came to realize that between us, my brother was more like our father, and I more like our mother.  Cole had a more conservative mindset, and mine more liberal.  Laura’s input I thought to be especially valuable as she is a Latina woman, her ideas, and opinions come from an entirely different place than my own.  Especially when she discussed the plights that her family had to endure to even come to this country.  I learned a lot more on the situation in our state currently regarding the future of the public education system, and the implications that legislation could have on the teachers.  I also learned quite a bit about my own family that wasn’t in attendance.  My mother told stories about my grandfather and how his work in the FBI made a difference in certain aspects of these problems.  How my grandmother immigrated from Germany, and how that part of the family faced similar things to Laura’s family in some ways.

As a whole, the assignment brought a brand-new perspective to how others view these major issues in our world.  One reading that I recommended all of the attendees to read was Exit West.  With the major topic that dominated the discussion being immigration, I believe it would provide insight to the group on the realities of immigrations, and how those that are immigrants adapt to their new homes.  Interestingly Laura talked about how her mother lost her religious beliefs after her move to the United States, and with one of the main factors that affects the characters in the book being religion I thought it would be great for her to read as well.  Out of the three central questions that we mainly discussed throughout the meal was how we live better together.  The discussion focused on improvements to the community, so this naturally is the main thing we focused on.