This dinner took place in the small, but developed town of Owensboro, Kentucky at in my parents’ home where I grew up. My mother and father, Jennifer and Philip, hosted this dinner for Frankie, Jeanne, and myself. We gathered around to discuss citizenship and enjoy my mother’s homemade burgoo, Frankie’s cornbread, and a delicious rum cake provided by Jeanne. I prepared by helping my mother with the burgoo, setting the table, and cleaning up afterwards. In the picture we are seated (from left to right): myself, Philip, Jennifer, Frankie, and Jeanne. Jennifer is a Registered Nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and currently pursuing a doctorate in nursing. She has a passion for helping others and is a talented learner. Philip is a supervisor at the Toyota Motor and Manufacturing factory in Princeton, Indiana. He commutes an hour and a half to and from work each day. Philip is a war veteran who is proud of his service in Operation Desert Storm but reluctant to talk much about his days of combat. Frankie is a retired state employer who loves spending time with her grandchildren and tending to her garden. She recently moved onto our street so we thought inviting her would make her feel welcome to our neighborhood. Jeanne was a former Human Resources consultant for the Health Park in Owensboro, Kentucky and currently owns and runs a children’s boutique called Kid’s Stop. I was worked at Kid’s Stop before Jeanne bought it and had to quit before she took over to move to Bowling Green. I went to see how the store had changed with her ownership and ended up inviting her to my Kentucky Kitchen Table. Following my mother’s footsteps, I am studying nursing at Western Kentucky University and share the same passion as my mother of helping others. I wish to further my education after obtaining a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing by pursing a nurse anesthetist degree.
To begin our discussions, I first started with asking each guest what citizenship means to them beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws. Philip, who feels underappreciated by the American government for his eight years of service, believes citizenship entails certain rights in which he respects and actively exercises. He believes he has earned these rights, as a citizen and a soldier, through his service in war. Other than my father’s opinion, a common theme amongst the other guests was that citizenship is being actively involved in your community and engaging in bettering the lives of those living in your community. Jeanne mentioned something unique that stuck well with me: “Citizenship is also having a voice in your community and your nation’s society.” After all agreeing to this, we discussed citizenship being in the context of a verb: in order to be a citizen, one must be engaged in their community and in making it a better place. Jennifer talked about her years of community service as an active member of the Owensboro Junior League and how she feels she made a difference in the people’s lives for which her services were helping. “Our main focus was concentrating on issues and services in the community that were actually going to help people for longer than a day or two” By this she meant, for example, working with those in homeless shelters on reading skills. Jennifer feels as if, by doing services like this, she was giving people opportunities to better themselves and their lives by sharing and teaching helpful skills. The other guests shared times they felt they had done their duty as a citizen and helped their communities in various ways. Frankie enjoys taking her 20-month old granddaughter to the animal shelter and feels she is brightening the lives of the animals of the community and, in turn, helping the community. Jeanne tries to do various community service but finds she does not prioritize it and it, therefore, gets put on the backburner. She also tries her best to help the parents of Owensboro by offering higher-end children’s clothing and doctor-recommended children’s footwear for more-than-fair prices at her boutique, Kid’s Stop. She often has sales where she will make no profit off of her merchandise because she believes it is her way to help her community. I am required to serve a minimum of fifteen hours of service a semester for my sorority at Western Kentucky University.
After overall agreeing that an important aspect of citizenship is serving and bettering the community, we got a little side-tracked. Jeanne shared the struggles and excitements of moving Kid’s Stop to a different location. After many congratulating and encouraging words from the other guests, I directed our conversation towards politics in America by asking, “What is the most impactful decision the Trump Administration has made since being in office?” My father was the first to respond by saying he believed the recent bombings on Syria have been the most important and impactful decision made thus far. My mother and Jeanne quickly added nods and words of approval while Frankie shook her head expressing her disapproval. My father elaborated on his first statement by arguing that president Trump was decisive and has reminded the world of America’s military power. Jeanne agreed and mentioned that this decision was a “nice alternative to the Obama Administration who always said they would do something about gas bombs and never did.” Jennifer chimed in by saying that the people, especially the children, living in Syria need someone as strong as America fighting to stop the torture and killings, and Trump has shown that America will fight for them. Frankie disagrees; however, she understands why the decision was made. She fears another Cold War, or worse, more terrorist attack on American soil as a result of these bombings. Although afraid of the possible outcomes, she agrees that something needed to be done to help save the people Syria.
After feeling like we had discussed enough about the dreaded topic of politics, I decided to brighten up our conversation a bit by asking, “what kind of person do you want to be?” I was reluctant to ask this question because my parents and our guests are not young adults. But after some thought, I realized this question is not, “what kind of person do you want to be when you grow up,” but “what kind of person do you want to be each and every day?” I felt like Frankie had read my mind and knew my initial concern with my question because she quickly answered by saying, “I am 77 years old and I work each day to be the person who God wants and who I want to be. It is a life-learning process.” She went on to explain that she wants to be someone who her grandchildren look up to every single day. Someone who helps others and is empathetic of others’ situations. “With every encounter I have with someone, I try to keep in mind that this person has different experiences than me; therefore, has different feelings and opinions that I must appreciate even if I don’t agree.”
This made me think of one of the central questions of our course: “How do we live well together?” I think Frankie’s response to what kind of person she wants to be is one of many ways to answer this question. I brought this question up to my guests, telling them that it is one of the centralizing questions of this course, and my father’s response was interesting. He said that he had never thought of solutions to that question before and mentioned that the way Frankie tries to encounter people is a good start to people living together well.
I thought this was a good closing point for what I wanted to know for my Kentucky Kitchen Table project so I did not ask any more questions and allowed our new friends to genuinely mingle with my parent’s and me. Learning what we did about Jeanne and Frankie created the foundation for a strong friendship in which we all plan to keep.