Kentucky Kitchen Table

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By Cole Constant

Late in the evening on the 12th of November, my mother, sister and I all gathered around the kitchen table of our home in Elizabethtown for a meal of sloppy Joes and steak fries (I had warned mom beforehand that there might be a lot of gesticulating over the course of the night). After some questions, I gave them a general overview of what they might expect or look to achieve over the course of the meal. I explained the central ideas behind the class and some things we discussed in there, as well as how that might relate to what we’d talk about.

My younger (16) sister, Lily, felt that citizenship was primarily about being guaranteed certain rights, while my mother (45) felt that American citizenship was unique in the amount of freedoms afforded to everyone, relative to many other less privileged/developed countries. She also noted a sense of comradery or “family” that comes with being what she believes is a “truly active” citizen. My sister cites a similar feeling, but having more to do with social media and increasing interconnectedness with her peers. She lists this as one of the best things about our world today; feeling that social media has caused much advancement in the areas of knowledge accessibility and general public awareness. My mother agreed that the advances in technology over the last twenty years have been amazing.

When asked about future living preferences, my mother and sister both demonstrated that, despite their aforementioned ideals about community, they would prefer to keep mostly to themselves.  My mom felt that, within your community, the best way to contribute is to have everyone work their hardest on improving their own situation; which would collectively mean a more “put-together” neighborhood. My sister felt that it was no-ones’ responsibility to help anyone else, and that everyone should just try their hardest to help themselves. My mother said that the older she got, the less hope she had in humanity and the more she would like simply to be “left the f*ck alone”. They immediately demonstrated their hypocrisy in this by revealing that their favorite thing about where they currently live is the sense of security they have, due to diligent and kind neighbors.

As an educator, my mother felt very strongly that her job did relate to her role as a citizen. She finds much pride in preparing the minds of the youth, and is very content with her ability to “push the envelope” as far as content, especially within a rural/conservative community. She also wanted me to note specifically that she feels cheated, as a government worker and citizen, by a new piece of legislation which completely changes how retirement works for educators. Apparently, government borrowing has totally expended the money from a system she has been paying into her entire life. And what can she do? My mother feels her voice is not heard. I remember voicing similar concerns about my own future to the class.

Neither my mom nor my sister considered themselves spiritual or religious, instead looking to their own set of values when making decisions or interacting with other people. My mom wouldn’t feel more obligated to help someone from her community over anyone else, but reasons that, due to the proximity, she would be more able/likely to. This is in line with her previous feelings of non-obligation to any particular group of people.

When asked about the kind of person she would like to be, Lily indicated that this question was the source of much stress in her life. She knows she would like to be a “good” person, but is unsure what exactly that entails beyond not being a “bad” person. She is comforted, however slightly, when mom tells her that she has changed who she is in life, before. To politicians seeking office, my mother advises they keep an open mind. I tell her that this is more or less the mantra of the class, explaining how refreshing it is to be surrounded by people who all do have an open mind. My sister lists transparency and honesty as very important qualities.

I admittedly was not expecting the response my sister provided concerning conversations she had with people of vastly different backgrounds. She recalled dinners she’d had at the home of her ex-boyfriend, who was part of a very conservative family. My sister was appalled at the normalcy with which they regularly talked down on people of other races and religions. She even went as far as describing them as brainwashed to a “scary” degree. She likewise feels that inclusivity and acknowledgement for underrepresented or oppressed groups is the most pressing social issue. My mother listed the tumultuous state of the government as the social issue closest to her heart, and between the two I’m sure you can see the similarities between my family and myself. I rarely missed an opportunity in class to blame a wicked problem or social issue on the intolerant, broken government.

By the end of the meal, my sister felt emotionally drained, but Mom was very relieved to learn the demographic of WKU (and this class specifically) was liberal-leaning. She has a lot of hope that our generation can rectify the mess that has been left for us to inherit. I must hope she is correct, and that Honors 251 class hasn’t artificially inflated my confidence in my generation’s ability to be kind, intelligent people.

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Brian’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Brian

On November 23, 2017, a Kentucky Kitchen Table took place in Louisville, Kentucky on Thanksgiving Day. The participants involved included my mother Mary, a 1st grade teacher who enjoys time with her family, Alexa, the just-graduated-college girlfriend of my cousin, Jeanne, a fun, loving aunt, Katie, a smart and determined woman a couple years out of college who is my cousin, Emma, a silly cousin adopted from China who is still in high school, Elizabeth, another cousin a couple years out of college who loves traveling the world, Rhonda, an aunt who enjoys the company of others, Donna, the mother of Alexa’s boyfriend, and myself. Together we stood around the table and ate various snacks and veggie trays before making ravioli to be eaten on Christmas Day, a family tradition. While most of their husbands either made the ravioli filling or cooked chicken outside, we all flattened out the dough and filled it with its filling before cutting it into bite size pieces and storing them in containers. I chose this group of people to discuss citizenship with because it contained a diverse group of young, middle aged, and older women who have all taken different routes in their lives and never fail to impress me with their own unique wisdom. I approached the table to help make the ravioli and it was then when the Kentucky Kitchen Table really began. I started off with a simple question with not so simple answers. “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Answers included themes such as holding those in your community accountable, being a part of a larger group, thinking about others in a selfless way, and creating the best possible environment for everyone to live in together. Mary, being a teacher in a public school for years, understands the importance of making others feel welcome in our community. She’s taught kids from multiple countries, who speak different languages, and believe in various religions. No matter where they were from though, she always considered it her duty not only as a teacher, but as a citizen, to welcome them in and make them feel just like everyone else. Emma, being from another country, personally knows what it’s like to be welcomed, despite not being born here. Donna herself has brought in her son’s friend from high school to live with them for years due to his own family life at home being unfriendly. She felt like it was her duty to take care of those who need help. Not only take care of him, but hold him accountable when he got in trouble or struggled in college. Citizenship is not only about making others feel welcome, but making sure they are doing their own part to be a successful citizen. A community like a chain, is only as strong as its weakest link.

The next question was what kind of community do you want to live in? Rhonda felt like a community you can feel safe in and be able to enjoy being a part of without any doubts was the best kind. Alexa wanted a community filled with friends and loved ones where you always have a place to go. Katie liked the idea of a place where everyone is accepted and not judged based on their appearance or beliefs. The overall theme of the answers to this question were the ideas of love, acceptance, and safety. The idea was your home should not just be the building you live in, but the community you are apart of. Luckily, everyone present felt like for the most part, they did live in communities described. No one was afraid of where they lived, and no one felt they were alone. Although not everyone can be as fortunate, I’m very grateful that my family seem to all live in healthy and successful communities.

I then got more personal and asked what kind of person do you want to be? Elizabeth just wanted to be someone who can make others laugh and feel good about themselves. She wants to leave others with a sense of warmth within. Jeanne said she wants to be a person who is loving and forgiving. She wants to leave her impact on the world as someone who just radiates with love. She feels like she’s tried to do this so far in her life and will continue to try to be this way going forward. Emma gleefully said she wants to be someone who is always happy and never hurts others’ feelings. Not one person said they wanted to be a rich and successful or something more self-focused such as that. Everyone talked about how they wanted to impact others or how they want to be a beacon of joy. This personally gave me a sense of joy and almost a pride to be apart of the family that I am.

The next question asked was what kind of advice would you give to people running for office in our country? I knew various members of the Kentucky Kitchen Table has different political interests, so I was interested to see what kind of answers were going to be said. Mary just hoped that whoever is in charge of our country governs with compassion and love. She wants our leaders to be thoughtful and caring even when tough decisions have to be made. Donna claimed she believes that the leader of a country should listen to the people and make clear decisions with honest intent. Those leaders should be open with the people about what they are doing and stay true to what they initially said they stand for. Emma admitted while she does not know a lot about politics, she still hopes that our president is kind and caring. She doesn’t want a malicious person leading our country who acts without remorse. Alexa wants those in charge to be thoughtful and accepting but also decisive. She prefers our leaders to act together and be confident in their decisions: not indecisive and arguing among themselves all the time. A successful government is one that is unified from the inside.

The last question asked was is there anything you can think to do that might make things better for you or your neighbors where you live? Jeanne believed trying to get more youth properly educated would result in healthier communities across the country and we should try to get more people aware of what a healthy community looks like. Emma said that you could get together a neighborhood event filled with bouncy houses and fun games in hopes that it draws people out of their homes so that relationships are built, and you get to know those living next to you. Elizabeth says just stopping to say hi or introduce yourself to neighbors you see while outside or on a walk will promote a more loving and unified community. All of the responses to this question dealt with people and making their lives and relationships better. It was not about building new facilities or anything physical but rather getting people together and fully aware of a caring community where all are welcome.

Once the conversation was over I could really see why we were required to be apart of a Kentucky Kitchen Table for our class. It reminded me of “Practicing Democracy,” in Smart Communities by Suzanne Morse. In the reading, communities such as those in Jacksonville or Oregon formed councils and groups that helped inform citizens of certain issues and helped decide how the local government should act. It was ordinary citizens who banded together and discusses local issues. Although this was a much smaller scale, it was similar in the sense that regular people sat down and talked about citizenship and real-life problems. Because of it, everyone involved had a better understanding of each other and the issues brought up. Questions that Honors 251 is centralized around like “How do we live well together?” and “How do solve problems?” were addressed and this project really did feel like the class was being applied to the real world.

The general themes I noticed from my Kentucky Kitchen Table was that of love, compassion, and human interactions. Each answer throughout felt very similar in the since that they shared a theme that everyone seemed to agree on for the most part. It was interesting to see how the same couple ideas could be present no matter how different the questions were. Never before have I had these kinds of conversations with my family and I am very glad I got the chance. It gave me a new understanding how these family members think, and I became proud of their ideals and beliefs. It makes me glad to be part of the family while also helping me understand a new meaning to citizenship. Now I have a new appreciation for these family members and it might not be the last time we sit down and have a down to earth conversation.KKT

Friendsgiving

By Mary

 

We had dinner around a kitchen table at kktmy friend’s apartment. The people that were there included, Andrew, Keaton, Kat, Gabby, Tori, Hayley, Ashlyn, Tatro, and myself. For my descriptions of these people, I thought that it would be best to not only use what they had to say about themselves, but also things I notice or appreciate about them. Andrew is a gentleman. He is compassionate and is genuinely interested in what you have to say whether he agrees with it or not. He is a goofy guy that loves being around good people, and wants to do something with his life. Even though I do not know him that well, I was able to pick up on those things about him very easily. Keaton’s description of herself is how I would describe her as well. She is extremely passionate and dedicated to doing the right thing, she always tries to stay positive and open minded, and she likes to look at the world from multiple different perspectives and learn from different situations. Kat is artistic in everything she does. She has a very bright, outgoing personality. She wants to use her art in art therapy or something else that is helpful. Gabby sells herself short. She gives without asking for anything in return. She instinctively takes care of those around her and has one of he kindest hearts that I know. Tori is a very loyal friend. She is unapologetically herself and brightens up a room when she’s in it. She is honest and will tell you what you need to hear. I do not know Ashlyn and Hayley that well. Ashlyn is carefree and enjoys being around people. She thinks for herself and is very independent. Hayley has a kind heart and cares about other people. She is a little soft spoken, but was insightful when she had something to say.

I think that we had a diverse group. We are all the same race, but we come from very different backgrounds and have different views on politics, life, and on the topics we discussed at dinner. Each person provided some type of dish. Since it is close to Thanksgiving, we had a “friendsgiving” and everyone made/brought something so we would have variety and enough for everyone to eat. We wanted to have a group of people that would give diverse answers and give us a different insight into issues. Everyone that was there respects the opinions of others even if they do not share the same view. I think that the discussion we had left everyone thinking of the points the other side had to make. I would say that I was able to understand a viewpoint that was different from mine.

Our discussion started with the obvious question of, “What does citizenship mean to you?” This question took them a moment to answer because it is not one that you get every day. Keaton had the response that I paid attention to the most. She said that citizenship means having freedom, but to a certain extent. It means being a part of a greater good and working to give back to your country in whatever way you can. Other people chimed in and added some more to what it meant to them. Some meant having a voice in society and being a productive member. Andrew said it simply meant doing your part in society and being good to others. This kind of lead to the question of, “What kind of person do you want to be?” One of the answers that multiple people said is that they want to be someone that people look up to and respect. They want to lead by example, and make a lasting impression on other people. Someone that everyone wants to be around and that radiates positivity. I felt that these answers and the conversation was going to the “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?” I worded it differently because of the nature of the conversation, but it had the same meaning. A couple of us there are unreligious, so I agreed with their viewpoints. They felt that religion should not be the reason you are good to people or treat them well. That we are all human beings that deserve respect and kindness regardless of who you are. The religious people agreed with what was being said, but their faith compelled them to treat others well. Most were some form of Christianity and all used the bible as their main form of references. They said that the bible teaches you how to treat people and that being in the church environment made them feel like they were around positive influences that helped them figure it out. From here, I felt that the next question on the list, “Do you think we have any obligations to other people in our country? In our community?” was the logical transition. One answer was that we do have an obligation to respect and support people within the community even if they are different from us. With this question, the election was kind of brought up. It is still a sensitive topic, but one that I do not think I have really discussed with my friends yet. For a few of us, the election was still a wound that we were trying to make sense of, and for others they were happy with the results. The people that voted for Trump said that they wanted change. He was going to fix the economy and fix trade deals. Those of us that did not vote for him said that he was a vile person. He instilled hatred into millions of people and made discrimination okay. Someone that was against Trump said that as president, he was obligated to protect all Americans and not only middle and upper class white people. This conversation went on for a while, but we were all able to agree that regardless of what we believe, the repercussions of the election are tragic and it is sad that people have to be scared to live in their own country. It was interesting how they brought the conversation back to the questions that I was asking. I brought up, “How to we live better together?” because I felt it was appropriate for where we were at in the conversation. Gabby said that we should be there for each other regardless of what we think, and that now more than ever is when people should respect everyone.

Tatro and I were not able to get through all of the questions because the conversations we were having were quality. I think that this might have been the first time that the I have had such in depth conversations casually with friends. It was refreshing to be able to talk to friends about things that actually matter. I learned that regardless of your religion, who you vote for, or what your beliefs are, we tend to gravitate towards being kind and good to each other. I would say that we have learned to be aware and understof what someone else is thinking, feeling, or going through. It was interesting to see an understanding being made when someone gave an answer or made a statement about something that went against what they thought. Sometimes, I would even disagree with someone, but was able to think about it through their perspective. They are my friends and I was able to still associate that with them. What we all realized is that even though you are different from someone, we are all people too and deserve to be treated with respect. My central idea that this all related to, and one I have already mentioned, is “How do we live better together?”. I felt that this conversation and dinner centered on this because of the recent election and events that have followed. This experience was something very enjoyable and eye opening about my friends.

My Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Callie

When I first heard about the assignment, I was anxious at the thought of having dinner with people whom I did not know. As a relatively quiet person, I was nervous about the idea, but it turned out to be a great experience.

For this assignment, I was paired with Jamie. Her friend Shelby opened her apartment to us for the night.  The night’s menu consisted of spaghetti with marinara and alfredo sauces made by Jamie and Isaac, bruschetta made by Shelby, cookies from Karla, and French toast that I made. There was a total of six people in attendance, only two of which I knew beforehand. In attendance was Jamie, her friends Shelby, Thomas, and Isaac, me (Callie), and my friend Karla.

Everyone in attendance was a member of the Honors College here at WKU. However, Karla and I were the only freshmen, while the others were all seniors. Jamie is a psychology major from Lawrenceburg, KY. Shelby is also a psychology major from Lawrenceburg. Thomas is from Mayfield, KY and is a biology student. Isaac is studying meteorology and is from Aurora, IN. Karla is also a psychology student and is from both Shelbyville, KY and Los Angeles County, CA. I am a business student from Dunmor, KY. Another aspect that makes this group diverse is religion. Karla and Callie are Christian, Thomas was raised Catholic but no longer practices the religion, while Jamie and Isaac identify as being LGBT and practice no religion.

Throughout the discussion, Jamie and I would take turns asking questions to keep the conversation going. At times we would get off topic by sharing personal stories as we discovered different things that we had in common with each other. These connections allowed us to relate to each other and connect our similar experiences. These topics included H4 and living in Minton Hall. We discussed that H4 allowed us to meet many new people, many of which we would not have taken the time to meet otherwise. While each person’s experiences took place in different years, overall we shared similar opinions and circumstances. We covered topics including citizenship, social issues, diversity, religion, the kind of person we want to be, and many more.

We began the discussion with the question: What do you think are the best things about our world today? The answers were light-hearted and included food, puppies, warm weather, and friendship. The following question required more serious answers: Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you? Many of the answers conveyed a similar message of truly caring for others and taking a stand for your beliefs. Isaac suggested that citizen should involve being politically engaged outside of voting and interacting with your local government. Others suggested being engaged with others and championing for a cause. These responses can be related to the class question of: How do we live well together? As we got off topic talking about out different experiences through the years, we came to the consensus that communication is key to living well with others. For example, Thomas and Isaac were roommates for several years and coming into college they had never met each other before. They agreed that talking things out allowed them to overcome their differences and become friends.

One of my favorite questions asked was: Have you ever had a conversation with someone from a really different background than yourself? I found it interesting to hear everyone’s personal account of their interactions with diverse people. We discovered that because of these interactions our worldviews have been expanded. Many of us grew up in small towns with little diversity, and as a result, our experiences with diversity have had a lasting impression on us and our worldviews. Isaac discussed how the ability to travel has shaped who is he as a person. Shelby told about her experiences staying in Europe with an Italian family where only one person spoke English. She found it interesting that they would listen to American music even though they were unable to understand it. Thomas spoke about his internship at the National Institute of Health, during which he lived in a house with an older woman from India and worked alongside people from all over the world. He found it exciting and educational to learn about other diversities in this way. Jamie explained that in elementary school she had friends who were Chinese and Japanese. She told that her best friend was a Bosnian refugee whose parents did not speak English. I told of my experiences at GSP where I met people from varying backgrounds, cultures, and religions. I found this time especially exciting, as it was my first real experience with diversity. Karla is from Hispanic dissent and grew up bilingual. She discussed that she was among the small diversity in her dominantly white neighborhood.

Overall, I found this experience worthwhile and enriching. Going into the assignment I was afraid that we would not be able to keep the conversation going considering I had never met the majority of the people in attendance. However, this was not the case at all. Through discussion we discovered many things that we had common with each other, which made the night flow more smoothly. The environment was very welcoming and it seemed there was no subject that was off-limits. I enjoyed hearing each person’s experiences and concerns. I was reminded of the fact that you cannot judge a book by its cover. While the majority of us came from small towns, we all were very different. Each of us held our own set of experiences, opinions, interests, and beliefs. Part of citizenship is living and interacting with others. In order for us to do so successfully, we must understand where each person is coming from and why they hold the positions that they do. Through this deliberation, I was able to get a glimpse of what the world could be like if we took the time to talk to those around us on a daily basis.

Mark’s Kentucky Kitchen Table Dinner

For my Kentucky Kitchen Table project, I invited over a few of my friends from the forensics team and their roommates. We had a great dinner consisting of pulled pork, salad, spicy baked white beans, cilantro lime brown rice, and bread. The people who were at the dinner were as follows. Bailey is a junior at WKU who is a member of the forensics team and brought the pulled pork. Eli is a freshman at WKU brought the rice and is roommates with one of my teammates Alex. Eli is also a member of the forensics team. Alex is also a freshman at WKU who is on the forensics team and he brought the spicy beans because he is a vegan. Alec is roommates with my friend Bailey and he is a junior from Lexington Kentucky. I originally planned to have my other teammates bring some of their floor-mates but they had cancelled at the last minute.

While the group wasn’t as diverse as it could have been, I do think that the group was representative of great geographic diversity. In fact, every single person who attended the dinner was from a different area. The group represented people from Blaine (Minnesota), Englewood (FL), Lexington (Kentucky), Albany (Georgia), and Newton (Kansas). Bailey and I are also first generation college students with family lineage going back to grandparents and/or parents who immigrated to the United States from Europe.

As dinner got under way the first thing that was brought up was the obvious, the results of the election. The majority of the people around the table had a general disgust with the election overall, which is how the conversation started. All parties involved decided that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have been the two weakest candidates since we have been able to vote. Realizing that a Trump victory was an inevitability, much of the discussion was centered around the idea of why we believe that Trump had to use such bigoted and discriminatory framings to advance his policies. While none of us agreed with the policies that Trump was implementing, we all agreed that there could be some policies better formulated by Trump. One such suggestion was creating a system that vets all immigrants instead of just targeting Muslims by establishing a registry. We agreed obviously it is important to know the background of people who are going to reside within this country, but we all though that it should be easier to get citizenship.
Moving on from the political discussions, we began to talk about our family heritage. Eli, Alex, and Alec grew up with families who have lived in the United States for the last few generations. However, both Bailey and I had the unique experience of coming from families who are very diverse in their background and come from Europe. One thing that Bailey and I noticed was different was the size of our families. When we have family get-togethers, it is normal to have 30-40 people over at our house. However, the other members in our group came from very small families who weren’t very close. Both Bailey and I realized that we know our fourth cousins like they are our siblings, but the rest of the group really didn’t know their extended family very well or at all. However, everyone at the dinner came from families who are not extraordinarily wealthy. Baily and I learned to be frugal from the older generations of our families, but the rest of the group grew up in rural areas in families that know how to save money and spend frugally. I thought that is was quite interesting that even though our lineage came from very different backgrounds, there are some societal indicators that pass down traits through generations. In this instance, families who have come from humble upbringings teach future generations to be frugal with the money that they make.

The final theme that we discussed at our dinner was religion. For the people in the group, both Eli and I identify as being Roman Catholic. Alec identifies as Lutheran. Both Alex and Bailey stated that they did not believe in any higher power or God. This conversation got a bit personal but eventually centered around the idea of how religion can be used as a powerful tool in society. Many people in the past have used religion in harmful ways to extort money out of people for their personal gain. But, on the other hand we realized that the moral underpinnings of a variety of religions and moral codes all like on the same principles of being a good person and ensuring that you not only benefit yourself but also those around you.

Everyone at the end of the meal said what they thought citizenship means to them. In light of the recent political climate, many people in the group were slightly hesitant to identify as being proud of our nation. However, people said that being a citizen of this country goes beyond the bounds of the person our country elects in the white house. In fact, the group agreed that if you are unhappy with the political situation in the country it is your obligation to speak up and vote to incite change. Thus, we concluded that a citizen is someone who always stands up for their best interests and the best interests of everyone in this country. As a bunch of white males, we will never personally feel the ramifications of Trump’s immigration policies for the Latino or Muslim population. However, as citizens of this country we have an obligation to speak out and protect those around us. That is how we can truly “make America great again”.

I really enjoyed my Kentucky Kitchen table. In fact, this project had very pronounced connections to the class which preaches about a sense of community. A strong community will always strive for seeking out ways to live better together. While we didn’t agree on every issue that we discussed, there was always a middle ground that was found. This is because everyone in the group put forth their ideas in a reasonable and calm way. As a result, we kind of engaged in a deliberation that brought us together instead of polarizing us. This project has taught me that there is no way to live better together as a community than getting to know the people who surround you. And even though many of the members of this group were on the forensics team with me, I learned so much about my fellow teammates, especially the freshman. This just goes to show that talking to the people around you can bring you all closer together.

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MARK ALLSEITS KKT DINNER

Donuts and Democracy

by Taylor

There’s one thing that is certain about my family: we always take the time to eat dinner together. Our family dinners are an integral part of the day for us, and now that I’m away at college, I’ve realized that I took those dinners for granted. I eat dinner with friends, of course, but there’s just something special about gathering around the dinner table with your family and talking about the day’s events.

That being said, the concept of this project really resonated with me. Dinner conversation is the best conversation, in my personal opinion. As soon as the project was assigned, I called my parents and asked them to invite our next door neighbor over for dinner. I came home the next weekend, and our Kentucky Kitchen Table Project commenced.

My mom, sister, and I ate a delicious meal with Mrs. Lori, a single mother who lives two houses down from us. My mom, Carolyn, is beautiful, blonde, and bold. Jordyn, my 14 year old sister, though brunette, inherited every ounce of my mother’s spark. The two are firecrackers, compared to my reserved nature, but I love them to death for it. Mrs. Lori, though I didn’t notice at first, has a very kind and comforting smile. Talking to her was easy, and fun. She was quiet at first, like me, but we all quickly became comfortable with one another. I’m so glad that I put myself out of my comfort zone and got to know Mrs. Lori along with the rest of my family.

Our Kentucky Kitchen Table took place the weekend after the election. My family and I were very disheartened by the results of the election, and the beginnings of our conversation were a little somber. I had asked everyone what citizenship meant to them, and we all came to a similar consensus. Being an active citizen not only requires you to vote: it requires you to use any lawful means possible to let your voice to be heard. Mrs. Lori made a fantastic point when I asked her what it meant to be a citizen of the United States. Her exact words were

“Even though where we’re at right now doesn’t seem that great, we still have to put in every effort we can to get where we want to be.”

The week following the election was one of the most emotionally strenuous weeks of my life. I didn’t know what to think, where to turn to, who to talk to. Should I lose hope all together? Should I accept the situation, even though I’m not very happy about it? I asked Mrs. Lori, and the rest of the people at our table, what their thoughts were about the election. We had all just finished eating my mother’s manicotti, and we were starting to nibble on the donuts Mrs. Lori brought for desert. My sister, as eloquent as ever, said

“It kind of sucks.”

I told her to elaborate.

“Well,” she said, “It’s pretty bad for minority groups. And—,” she paused.

It is hard for me to describe the amount of sadness I saw in her young eyes.

“There’s just so much hate.”

We continued to talk about our thoughts, and we were all less than hopeful about the future. To brighten up the conversation, I asked everyone what they thought were the best things about our world.

I mentioned the wondrous availability of knowledge thanks to technology. This, I said, was especially important to college students.

“I think it’s great that our world is so different,” said my mom. “I mean, culturally, our world is so rich and interesting.”

Mrs. Lori nodded. “And even though we’re all so different, the great thing is that we really all want the same things: love, food, safety, a better life for our kids and families.”

She was absolutely right.

We continued to talk about our connection with others around the world well into the night. The donuts disappeared. The coffee became cold. Well after my sister, my mom, and I, wished Mrs. Lori a good night, I thought about what my neighbor said. With tensions continuing to rise in our country, especially among minority groups, it felt good to hear Mrs. Lori’s words.

I learned quite a bit that night. We really aren’t all that different, are we? America is a diverse, melting pot, and I’ve noticed that WKU certainly represents this. Our campus’s diversity is continuously shown to me during my morning walks from Minton to Cherry Hall: so many different races, cultures, religions. I think it’s wonderful.

It’s safe to say, though, that many of us can get wrapped up in how different we are from others. Human nature dictates that we divide, section, and organize people into their respective categories. It allows us to make sense of the world around us. But when does that become harmful?

My Kentucky Kitchen Table conversation made me realize just how alike we all really are. Our country is struggling right now. However, most of us want similar things, if we look past the aspects of society that want to divide us, such as religion, sexuality, gender, skin color, political affiliation, etc. We want a better world. We want to be happy, we want to feel safe, and we want what’s best for our families. As a kid, my mom and dad taught me to look for the good in everyone. Citizen and Self has taught me to not only be kind and respectful towards others’ opinions; it has also taught me to be empathetic. To see from others’ perspectives.

In these dark times, with hatred and fear bleeding through the news and onto the streets, our nation needs some kindness. Compassion. Understanding. And Mrs. Lori, my mom, and my sister, made me see this. We’re all citizens of the United States; that hasn’t changed. We shouldn’t continue to pin blame on voters who chose a path that others disagreed with. We must come together, accept our differences, and realize our common goals. Thinking about the future is unnerving for me, even now; but I know that I’m not alone, and I know that our country can unite as one. We’ll morph our fears into productivity and hope.

I’m not sure what these next four years will hold, but I’m grateful for the friendship I’ve made, and what it’s taught me. I’ll certainly be finding out where Mrs. Lori got those donuts, because they were quite delicious.

(Not pictured: my mom. She had some trouble with the IPhone Camera.)

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Finally a Home Cooked Meal

By Allie

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When I first heard of the Kentucky Kitchen Table project I was a little apprehensive. Growing up I was used to sitting around the dinner table for meals, but I was never provided with a list of questions to ask. Conversation flowed naturally without someone directing it. When reading through the handout I realized I was going to have to ask questions about citizenship and democracy and the people I was eating with were going to look back at me with blank stares. Thankfully, the dinner went the complete opposite way. The people I ate with were very intrigued and interested with what I was learning in class and they kept encouraging us to ask more questions

I ate with five people besides myself. First was Caroline, who on the surface may be seen as similar to me, but we are actually quite different in our beliefs. Caroline and I are in the Honors College together as well as the same sorority, but Caroline comes from a much larger city than me and has different political views as well. The next two people were my parents, Lee and Trent. My mom is very nurturing and accepting and works at a church where she is in charge of planning worship as well as visiting people in the hospital and nursing homes. My dad on the other hand holds much stronger opinions and doesn’t always know when to stop talking. He works in sales and is very good at persuading others. The last couple that joined us was Becky and Ed. Ed is a high school English teacher who is very passionate about what he does. He was also very interested in the conversations we were having and didn’t want the conversation to stop. Becky works in the business world and was much quieter than her husband throughout the night, but her motherly qualities were very apparent in all that she said. Everyone who came to the dinner was very interested in the topics discussed and they all had different and interesting takes on the subjects.

When we all sat down to dinner we were patiently awaiting Caroline. She arrived a couple minutes late and apologized about a hundred times before we actually dug in to our food. Caroline and I first began to explain why we had to talk about democracy and citizenship and we told everyone what this Honors 251 class was all about. After we got all of that out of the way we began to ask everyone some questions. We started with the question of what citizenship means to you. Almost everyone’s responses revolved around doing the right and kind thing. They also discussed the importance of accepting people who are different than you. This led to a discussion of Room in the Inn.

Room in the Inn is a homeless ministry that the church’s in Bowling Green implemented. My home church participates in this program, but through the conversation this night I learned a lot more about it. There was one man in particular that everyone talked about. His name was Ernest and he often stayed at church’s through the Room in the Inn program. I learned that people from my church had actually helped him get a job washing dishes at White Squirrel. He also has begun to earn more money and is currently trying to find somewhere he can afford to live. Everyone at the dinner said this was a perfect example of good citizenship being played out. Helping others, who may not have as much as you, is an easy way to be a good citizen to those around you.

We later asked everyone if they thought their job was serving a greater purpose. Almost immediately everyone gave their one-word answer. Ed, the high school teacher, discussed the question for a while. He believes that what he teaches his students can really impact them in their future. I agree with this whole-heartedly. I am planning on going into education and one of the main reasons is so that I can be a positive role model for kids and make an impact on their lives. He said exactly this and he believes that is what he does every day.

Another thing we talked about was the election. This dinner occurred before Donald Trump was the President Elect. When asked about what advice they would give to our nominees one thing really stuck out to me. Ed stated that he suggests that our nominees should act like statesmen not politicians. He said he wanted to vote for someone who was going to do the right thing for our nation without worrying about being reelected. Such a big problem in politics today is that there are so many people behind the scenes pulling strings that the people who hold office aren’t the ones with the power. They are being told what to do and are too worried about being reelected rather than trying to get legislation passed. Trent also gave the advice that they should know what they are talking about before they speak. This led to a discussion about how neither candidate really knows what they are talking about. Hillary may be the better communicator but she still makes mistakes, and it’s obvious that Trump is blatantly wrong with some of the facts he gives. Again at this time we were still in the middle of the election. I just hope that Trump takes the advice everyone gave him.

Another thing we talked about was social issues. This was where I thought the conversation may go south, but actually this was my favorite part of the night. I anticipated an uncomfortable talk about abortion or gun rights or LGBTQ rights. Thankfully Becky began with saying animal cruelty hit home for her. She just couldn’t believe that people could be so cruel to animals and live with themselves. We all pretty much agreed with this strongly and our conversation was successfully veered away from the dangerous cliff we could have fallen over.

At this point in the conversation Caroline and I pulled the wicked problem conversation on them and we started to discuss that. We were able to relate this to the class and we told them about the different wicked problems we had studied like poverty and education. They kept getting annoyed when we asked them if they had any solutions to homelessness because they realized there was no easy solution. They were very intrigued with the discussion of wicked problems because they finally had a name to use for all the problems that surround us.

Throughout the dinner we also discussed the best things about our world today. Lee talked about the advances in technology and medicine as well as how our world is “smaller”. Because of all the advances people across the world can be contacted with a click of a button. We also talked about how great of a town/city BG was. Caroline talked about how it was very different from Louisville, but she liked it a lot. Bowling Green has a small town feel while still having enough interesting things going. During this conversation I realized how important WKU was to our community. Without the university the city of Bowling Green would be nothing. It was interesting to hear everyone’s opinions of Bowling Green and what they liked and didn’t like about it.

Overall the night was filled with enriching conversation rather than the awkward pauses that I thought would ensue. Caroline and I got to enjoy a home-cooked meal and we even learned a thing or two. The awkward dinner turned into a cultivating Kentucky Kitchen Table.