My family has never been the type to eat dinner together around the kitchen table. Typically, whenever meals were ready, we would each grab our own plates and head our separate ways. That being said, it was nice to have a reason to actually sit down with each other, not only to eat a nice meal, but also to delve into the meaning and importance of citizenship in today’s society.
We had a diverse group at the table. My parents, Angela and Brian, are both extremely conservative Baptists who have never attended college and who have lived in Louisville all of their lives. My brother is currently a freshman at the local community college. My sister and her boyfriend, on the other hand, are both currently in high school; Amber goes to the local public school, while Mitchell goes to a local private school. Also, at the table, was my sister’s friend Megan. I had never met Megan before and she differed from my family in a lot of ways. She is originally from Pennsylvania but recently moved to Louisville. She considers herself a Democrat and a devout Catholic who loves to travel the world. Everyone offered a lot to the conversation and we had a wide array of opinions at the table.
The first question I asked was, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” My mom mentioned that patriotism was a big thing for her. In her opinion, being a citizen in the United States was something that you should be proud of and that you should show. I had never really considered this as a “duty” associated with citizenship. Other answers to the question seemed to focus around freedom. To many individuals at the table, being a U.S. citizen meant that you get necessary and important freedoms, such as freedom of speech and freedom to own a gun.
Something interesting that also came up during the dinner was the topic of homelessness. Megan mentioned that she recently read an article that talked about how homeless people in bigger cities can now register for specific cards that allow them to get donations from people put on their card. That way if, for example, someone doesn’t have cash on them, they can still help out the homeless by sending them money to their card. Some of us at the table thought that this was good news because it meant that it was easier to be kind and help people out. Others found it disturbing because it meant that it was now easier for homeless people to not attempt to find a job because they could get donations easier. This relates to what we talked in class about how sometimes people get too reliant on aid systems and structures that they don’t attempt to get out of their situation.
The topic of kindness and whether we have a duty to help others out was also brought up. My dad agreed that we do in fact have a duty to be kind to others. He mentioned that kindness is sometimes hard to find in the world but it’s definitely still out there. My mom agreed with him, though to a lesser extent. She believed that there were only certain situations where we needed to help someone out and that it was not necessarily always our duty. Megan on the other hand, said that she did not feel that we had any obligations to anyone else. She believed that people can typically fend for themselves. This was interesting to hear because it definitely counterbalanced the southern hospitality nature that my family and people in my area have.
In conclusion, I think that everyone at the table would agree that the Kentucky kitchen Table project was an enriching experience for all of us. Even my sister and her boyfriend agreed that, although they didn’t feel experienced enough to talk about some of the issues and topics, they learned a lot from hearing us discuss them. My family, as well as Megan and Mitchell, mentioned that the only time they really had dinner together with their families was on holidays. They all agreed that they’d like to change that and make it a daily thing because they felt it brings everyone closer. Personally, I couldn’t agree more.