Elderly Dogs, Citizenship, and Chicken Nuggets

By Zach

Through this Kentucky Kitchen Table experience, I was able to go back to how I normally eat dinner during the holidays with my family, listening to each other and discussing how our years have gone usually encompasses a majority of our dinner. Since being at Western Kentucky University I find it hard to actually have those sit down conversations with people which go beyond just small talk because that is basically all we have time for. Although I had never met McKenzie prior to the Kentucky Kitchen Table I knew it wouldn’t take long for us to open up about our school lives, future plans, and other topics relating to the Honors 251 course.

Aubrey and I had already begun to open up about our lacking cooking experience and I will admit I gave her a hard time about not being able to make no-bake cookies, which she had promised to bring, and instead bought the cookies at a store a few hours before hand. After arriving at McKenzie’s apartment we soon realized we were not the only ones with minimal cooking abilities because we were welcomed with every college student’s favorite dishes, chicken nuggets and mac-n-cheese. The biggest surprise was when one of the most energetic dogs I had ever been around came up to me and began to beg for food, his name is Johnny Karate. Johnny would soon become the center of attention for the rest of the night.

Other than Johnny Karate, I did not see much diversity seeing as Aubrey and I were from the same hometown and McKenzie was from Shepherdsville, Kentucky. But the more I thought about it the more I saw that we are much more different than I had previously supposed. I am a biology major while Aubrey is an undecided major and McKenzie has graduated from Western Kentucky University (and the Honors College) with a degree in psychology. These differences in majors show how diverse our interests are from one another. Being raised on a farm in Northern Pulaski County with one younger sibling, I have a much different view of the world as compared to McKenzie who grew up in an area around Louisville is the oldest of five. I didn’t see much of a connection to be made with talk of what we all wanted to do with our majors, or in Aubrey’s case what types of majors would be enjoyable, so I was ready to dive into the recommended questions for discussion.

When I sat down I could not help but notice a pro-Hillary Clinton coloring book. Now being an outspoken Trump supporter I had questions rolling through my head about why she would pick Hillary Clinton to support but Aubrey had already told me before dinner that I should probably refrain from any political discussions just so we could keep the night going as smooth as possible. I decided not to bring up the issue explicitly but rather implicitly.

One of the major questions we discussed stemmed from the recommended questions in the handout which pertained to what we thought the best thing in our world today could be. McKenzie seemed to have an answer already prepared for this question seeing as she hardly hesitated when she replied that social media was one of the most beneficial things we have in society today. McKenzie acknowledges social media can be used to harm others self-esteem and may be used as a vehicle for bullying to occur. She stands by her stance of social media is more beneficial than harmful simply because social media allows people from across the globe to communicate in a way never seen before in history. I can see how social media benefits humanity in how it allows the transfer of experiences to people from completely different backgrounds.

Even though I realized McKenzie and I had differing views on who should be the next person running our country, Aubrey, McKenzie, and I all had similar views on social and humanitarian issues at hand. A required question was “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” McKenzie’s answer was spot on in how she believes we have an obligation to help others and those who cannot help themselves, yes that includes elderly dogs. McKenzie as well as myself believe no matter how small our efforts are; we can make a difference in our communities. I could see this idea relating to Pollan’s “Why Bother?” article in disagreement with what the articles theme is pushing for in that no matter what we do unless everyone participates nothing will change.

Another conversation I found interesting stemmed form the question of “Do you know your neighbors?” McKenzie stated that she was more of an acquaintance with her neighbors. I can understand why seeing as she does not necessarily have anything in common with her neighbors other than that they live in the same apartment complex. Growing up in a rural community I was very close with my neighbors, however, my neighbors and I had a majority of the same background so it seems easier to get to know them and become close. When taking on college I have noticed that it is much easier to get to know people who are much like yourself rather than reaching out and finding people with differing backgrounds and opinions. Through my experience in the Honors 251 class, I see that it would make for a more educated outlook on problems we face as a society.

As the night came to a close I realized I had most likely thrown over 100 balls for Johnny Karate and although he seemed to be exhausted he kept bringing the ball back and begged for one last throw. Aubrey and I helped clean up the leftover food and thanked McKenzie for having us for dinner. After reflecting on the night I understood how diverse our group actually was outside of our race or other physical features our opinions are what really defined the diversity of the group. Aubrey, McKenzie and I had a wonderful time with insightful conversations about elderly dogs, citizenship, and chicken nuggets.

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Citizenship, Democracy, and an Elderly Dog

by Aubrey

4553061df8884f608358b38576cdfe48As a college student, I am constantly on the go, seldom able to make time for much of anything other than the tedious tasks that being a college student entails. I eat my meals hurriedly between classes, seldom taking the time to talk or even sit at a table. So when I was required to do the Kentucky Kitchen Table project for Honors 251, needless to say I was out of my element. However, through this project I was able to gain a valuable experience that I will always remember. This experience had an incredible impact on not only me, but also my classmate, a former Western Kentucky University student, and an unexpected furry guest that contributed equally as much to the night as the rest of us did.

When Zach and I first arrived to McKenzie’s apartment in his enormous truck, armed with nothing but prepared questions for the night and a few more-hastily prepared side dishes, we had no idea what to expect for the night. We walked into the apartment unprepared for the greeting we were about to receive. As soon as we opened the door, we were not-so-viciously attacked by an adorable elderly dog known by the name of Johnny Karate. It was obvious from the start that Johnny and McKenzie were good friends, and that this dog would be an important part of our dinner.

When I looked around at our faces, I did not see much diversity (unless you count the elderly face of the beloved Johnny Karate). I was confused as to how we would have different perspectives as we seemed to be a lot alike. However, as we began to discuss, I realized that in many ways, we are more different than alike. We each had our own experiences and backgrounds that shaped us into the people we are today. Therefore, we were each able to contribute greatly to the conversation with unique perspective and ideas.

Zach, for example, was raised on a farm in Pulaski County, Kentucky, graduating first in his class at Pulaski County High School. He is a biology major, with hopes of using this major to further plant-related science. McKenzie is the oldest of five children, raised in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. She is a graduate student at Western Kentucky University. She graduated Western Kentucky University with a psychology degree, and hopes to work with corporations in this field. I also hail from Pulaski County, graduating first in my class at Somerset High school. I was raised in a very political family, with my dad being the Pulaski County Judge Executive. Unlike Zach and McKenzie, I have no idea what I want to major in. However, that did not stop me from enjoying the good food and company of these people who have their lives a little more figured-out than I do.

When we first sat down to eat, it was at first a little awkward. However, there is no awkwardness that chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese cannot diffuse, so the awkwardness subsided quickly. After looking at my surroundings, I started to get a little bit nervous. On the coffee-table, there was a pro-Hillary Clinton coloring book. I began to panic on the inside, as I thought of my fellow classmate Zach, who is an open and avid Trump supporter. I knew that some of the questions we would be discussing would be politically charged, and I was nervous about someone in the room getting offended.

This nervousness was in vain, as no chaotic political bar-fights broke out throughout the night. What did break out was good, democracy-related conversation. It turns out that even though we may have different political views, we all have similar views on humanity and compassion. When asked “What does citizenship mean to you?”, we all were able to agree that this meant helping out those around you, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. I was able to relate this back to The Golden Rule, which states to treat others as you would like to be treated. McKenzie took citizenship a step further, by saying that we should not only be compassionate to the people around us, but also to the living things. The ears of the elderly dog, Johnny Karate, surely perked up a bit as this point was brought up. It was very clear that the elderly dog population is important to McKenzie, and her heart is big for the living things, human or not, that have the opportunity to be a part of her life.

We also discussed what we thought were the best things in our world today. McKenzie brought up the point of social media. Although social media is often used maliciously, it can be a great tool to connect with people in our world. Because of social media, it is easier to communicate with others than ever before. It is also a great way to see other people’s perspectives. This means that if you believe one thing, social media makes it easy to see someone else’s perspective about that issue, making it easy to be more open-minded. Zach and I were also able to connect social media to the election. Because of social media, we were able to stay more informed and aware of the candidates and their stances on the issue. We were all able to agree that social media was, overall, a great part of today’s society.

When asked what social issue was closest to our hearts, we all had different answers. For McKenzie, the important social issue for her was elderly dogs. She believes that all dogs deserve love, and the fact that elderly dogs are as neglected as they are is heartbreaking. After spending the whole night playing fetch with Johnny Karate, I could easily see why this issue was important to her. For me, the answer was racism. This has not always been the case, but through my participation in Honors 251, I have seen that racism is a much bigger issue than I had ever seen before. I have become more aware of racism in my everyday life, and have since felt convicted to make a change. Despite the fact that our passions about social issues were different, we were all able to see each other’s perspectives and recognize these problems.

After returning home from this night of discussion, I realized how grateful I was for this project. Although we may not have been the most diverse group of people, we all had important things to say. As we discussed citizenship and democracy, I realized that despite difference in political views, we all have similar concerns for citizenship and how we live well together. This experience has been one that I will never forget, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Zach, McKenzie, and Johnny Karate.

Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Lily

When I moved to Bowling Green for school my old youth pastor texted me. He reminded me his ex-girlfriend Paige lives here if I ever need anything. She sent me a similar message. They dated when I was in eighth grade and she was a junior at WKU. When she was in town she worked with my youth group and stayed the night at my house in Lexington a few times. She was an amazing role model as she clearly loved the Lord with her whole heart and I was overjoyed to have the chance to reconnect with her. When the Kentucky Kitchen Table project was assigned I knew I did not want to go home nor do the project with my friend group and a class mate’s. So, I opted for the host home option but when I found out host homes were sparse I remembered Paige. Before Paige could confirm dinner plans two girls from the other class, Lexi and Merritt, were assigned to the kitchen table I was supposed to be providing. Paige explained that while it would be hard to set up a dinner she may be able to work something out with her friend Jessie. By the time we finally had a date set Lexi decided to do the project at home.
Merritt and I arrived in the neighborhood at about the same time. We met for the first time outside searching for Jessie’s house. Paige welcomed us in and explained the situation to Merritt; she, her son Bo, her husband Eric, Jessie, Jessie’s daughter Lucy, and Jessie’s husband Joel would all be moving to Turkey within the year so they were staying together while Eric and Joel were in Turkey at a training. Paige was simultaneously caring for her baby boy, Jessie’s baby girl, and cooking dinner. Jessie was out taking a meal to some international friends of hers. We offered and brought dessert and while she was very appreciative Paige explained that they have guests over so often they were drowning in food to offer us instead. She and Jessie suggested we take our dessert and share it with people on campus as an outreach to build community.

We sat down and began getting to know each other before we discussed anything related to the course. Paige is great with teenagers and people in general so although she is in a completely different stage of life than us our conversation was fluid. We took turns explaining different parts of our lives. Merritt talked about her upbringing with two brothers and two loving while protective parents. She went to an all-girls Catholic high school in Louisville. She is now participating in Greek life just like her mother and father were when they were in college. She also mentioned her family’s fondness of sports. Paige talked about her hometown only thirty minutes away from Bowling Green. She talked about how she met my old youth pastor and now her marriage to Eric. All the while being interrupted by babies, cooking and eventually Jessie returning home. Jessie talked about her job on campus at WKU where she and her husband are leaders at the Baptist Student Ministry. She related her work to Merritt’s sorority involvement and asked if Merritt had heard of a famous speaker. The woman used to find her identity in her sorority but once she graduated she did not know what to do. She ended up finding the Lord and speaking at sororities across the United states. Jessie talked about her impact on her after listening and her potential impact on so many more people.
When they were both home and sitting at the table they started explaining their impending move to Turkey. They will start working as missionaries for the International Mission Board with their families. They talked about short mission trips to Turkey they had each taken years prior. There was a specific unreached people group they wanted to reach-out to but they were going to have to enter the country and live in Istanbul for a while before they could. Their plan is to live in Istanbul learning Turkish for three years until it would make more sense to move to the part of Turkey they want to reach. At that point they would have to begin learning another new language, that of the Zazas. It was incredible to hear their long-term mind-set. The two had lived together before and were in it for the long-haul planning to live together again in Turkey. The two shared how they met at a church that outreaches to the housing projects in Bowling Green and had lived together before. God was working in their lives even then. Paige and her husband knew the neighborhood they wanted to live in and there was only one home available. When Jessie got married a few months later she and her husband wanted to live in the same neighborhood but no houses were available. The house was too big for the young couple but it worked out perfectly so Jessie and her husband could sublease with Paige and her husband.
Afterward, we began discussing what it means to be a citizen. Jessie talked about how she had never really considered it before. She said she did not value her citizenship as much as she should especially because in the United States we are awarded many more rights than other countries offer. Specifically as a woman she spoke of being very grateful for the society and country we live in. Paige agreed and they both talked about their citizenship in heaven. I was very interested in their perspective since they will soon be changing their citizenship. But they explained their earthly citizenship to no matter which country means little in comparison to their home in God’s house. They both are very thankful for their citizenship though. They feel a responsibility to support their governments and fellow citizens as Americans and as Christians. Merritt talked about how she had also never really considered her citizenship before this course. She explained that now that she can vote she is beginning to think about and learn more about government and how she can contribute to it. At dinner I was reminded of poverty and service, empathy, and learning from others weeks as a lot of our conversation was about how to live well with others.
When 7 o’clock rolled around so did the children’s bed time. We were welcomed back anytime and we all departed smiling and grateful.
I was very grateful to have learned from each of the beautiful people I had dinner with. I learned hospitality and outreach, a care for the people around me and a care for people around the world. I learned immediate love and long-term appreciation for people, respect for parents and affection for siblings and friends. I learned gentle peace and ambition, duty and perspective. I am very thankful for our dinner and our conversation. I am thankful for the chance to learn and connect with a peer I might never have met as well as citizens of Bowling Green in a different stage of life. I was really blessed by this experience and hope to continue my relationships with each of these ladies.

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Kentucky’s Kitchen Table Project

By Coreyimg_4079

I will start off by saying that I greatly enjoyed this Kentucky Kitchen Table project. It allowed me to connect with some local people in my community and share some of our life experiences. I had dinner with eight people from various backgrounds. Luke is a man from Indiana who I was introduced to through a friend for this project. He is a mechanical engineering major. He is a funny guy, who has a very similar sense of humor to mine. We got along well from the beginning, and he was a great addition to the kitchen table. He wanted to be described as a kid from a small town who has never had anything given to him. Everything he has came from his own hard work. For the required question concerning what citizenship means, Luke said that citizenship means that you get out and participate in society. You work hard every single day, and try your best to make your dreams come true. You make money and spend money, and that’s how society works.

Kayla is a graduate from WKU, and has a degree in civil engineering. She is my sister, and she is an academically brilliant student graduating with an almost perfect GPA and Honors. She now has a full time job in civil engineering. Kayla wanted to be described as not your typical girl. She works in what some consider a man’s field, and has never been interested in most of the “girly” things. When I asked Kayla what citizenship meant to her, she had a similar answer to Luke saying that you must participate in society. She believes that citizenship means treating everyone with respect.

Mallory is my girlfriend, but she comes from a very different background than me, which provided even more diversity to the table. She also attends WKU and is majoring in Civil Engineering. She comes from the “cross town rival” independent school and was raised up in a more subdivided area. Citizenship means accepting everyone as they are to Mallory. She says that even if you do not agree with the way someone thinks or feels you should still accept them as they are.

Kiersten is my little sister and she was without a doubt the most interesting character at the kitchen table. She is one of the sassiest little girls I have ever known, and extremely smart. Whenever I asked Kiersten how she wanted to be described, she said she wanted to be described as a princess which is not in the least bit surprising.

Elaine comes from a background of only having enough to make ends meet. All through her life she has not had a surplus of money so she is very economically wise and very responsible. When I asked her about what citizenship means to her she had a very simple answer. She said that being a citizen means to contribute to society and make sure that you treat everyone with an equal amount of respect because everyone is made equal in God’s eyes.

Marietta is an elderly woman who has not had it easy from what I can gather. Recently her husband of many years passed away due to an ongoing illness. She said that one of her sons was in prison, and that another had a long fight with drug addiction that he recently conquered. The easiest word that I can find to describe this woman is tough, because she has had a lot of tough times in her life and she has always come through it. Marietta said that citizenship means loving this country and fighting for what you believe in.

The final guest I had at my kitchen table was a man named Kevin who was told a few years ago that he would never walk again. He was involved in a horrible four-wheeler accident that broke several of his vertebrae along with other injuries. He was rushed to UK hospital where he underwent immediate surgery, and at the conclusion of the surgery he was told he would never walk again. Yet, here he was walking into my house to have dinner. Kevin wanted to be described as a fighter because he said it seemed like he was always the under dog. When I asked Kevin what he thought citizenship meant, he said that citizenship meant trying your best to help others out around you.

Throughout the dinner we had a lot of small talk conversations about how everyone was doing and we all shared a little background about ourselves to begin with. Then, since I had been hunting the morning of the kitchen table project, I was asked if I had gotten a deer yet, and we spent a few minutes exchanging our best deer hunting stories with one another. One of the most well responded to questions I asked was: “Did you ever have meals around the table with your family or neighbors growing up?” This question seemed to almost be universally answered as a yes except for Luke. Luke said that his dad worked a lot as he was growing up, and that he didn’t really get to spend time just sitting down and eating dinner with his family. Both Kevin and Elaine responded yes to this question. They thought that it was a normal thing for a family to sit down at the dinner table and have a home-cooked dinner together almost every single night. It was something that they had done ever since they could remember, and couldn’t imagine what life would’ve been without that. Elaine said she felt that this dinner together made the family stronger, and made them get along better.

I honestly learned a lot at this short dinner filled full of conversation and good food. It can really open your eyes to the changing generations, and the differing views between every person no matter how similar they are. This reminds me very strongly of the idea of deliberation and the book Citizen by Claudia Rankine. As I sat at the kitchen table, I was very aware of the differing view points surrounding the table, yet we could all talk about our beliefs and views without offending anyone. That is the goal of deliberation and democracy is to understand everyone’s views and come together to form a better society. Finally, it reminded me of the book Citizen by Claudia Rankine because of the fact that everyone at the table mentioned at some point or another that no matter the skin color or views or ideas we all need to accept one another regardless of the circumstances, and that is very important.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this Kentucky Kitchen Table Project, and would suggest it to anyone. It opens your eyes to the way generations are changing, and how everyone has differing view points no matter if you’re from the same state, city, or household. It was a great experience and I’m glad I was able to participate.

Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Merritt

On November 15th, I did my Kentucky Kitchen table assignment. I was very nervous going into it because I had been paired with a girl who I did not know, nor did I know anyone attending the dinner. However, I can say that I was nervous for no reason because the dinner went amazingly. When I arrived at the street the house was on, I had issues finding it. Luckily the girl who I was paired up with, Lily, arrived soon after me and we found the house together. Lily and I had texted a little bit but this was the first time we had met each other. As we were looking for the house we shared some basic information about ourselves and got to know each other a little bit. We were having dinner at a family friend of Lily’s. Lily’s friend, Paige welcomed us in. Paige has a baby named Bo who is less than a year old. She explained to us how her and her friend Jessie were staying at this house, although they did not live there. Paige and Jessie are missionaries; they are planning on moving to Turkey in several months to pass along their faith. Their husbands were currently on a ten-day trip to Turkey for a missionary expedition so they were staying in the house until their husbands returned on Saturday.

Paige sat us down at the table and laid out plates for us. She was extremely polite and friendly. We shared basic information about our lives such as where we were from, members of our family, what we are studying, etc. Paige cooked meatball soup and cornbread which smelled amazing. She joked around saying she was not a very good cook and apologized if it was not good. Paige served us food and we talked a little long. Her soup and cornbread tasted amazing.  As we were eating Jessie walked in the door. She wasn’t back yet because she had made lasagna for one of her friends and was delivering it to her. Jessie was very similar to Paige in regards to kindness and generosity. Lily and I introduced ourselves to Jessie and we talked a little bit. Jessie also has a young baby who she brought out to us. Both babies were adorable. Jessie’s baby is a girl, so the two joked around saying that their babies were destined to get married. The two women are in their mid-twenties and they both attended WKU. We talked a little about the changes WKU has made since they have been there. They were also curious to hear about my sorority, since neither of them or Lily had been in sororities at WKU.

Jessie and Paige are very devoted Christians. When they asked me about my faith I told them I was Catholic. They were both happy to hear that I have a relationship with God. However, I would not say that I am anywhere near as a good follower as they are. It was very interesting to hear them talk about their faith. They both shared how they believe that God has a plan for them so no matter what happens they trust Him. They shared examples of when they have put their life into Gods hands which amazed me. Although I have a strong faith, hearing them talk about their devotion made me realize just how faithful they are. When we asked what citizenship meant to them, they both thought about it for a while. Jessie answered first explaining how she doesn’t think about citizenship much because she is moving to Turkey in a few months. However, she also added that she is very thankful for the rights that she has living in the US. She explained to us that she felt like she had no place to complain about her right’s because women or people in other countries have nowhere near the rights that we do. Paige agreed with this. Both women shared that they were thankful that God had them born into the US. However, they both stated that although their live on earth is important to them, the real place that they are citizens in is Heaven. Even though I come from a Catholic background I am often not around people who share their faith in a way that Jessie and Paige do. Although I do believe in Heaven and life after death, I focus on my life on earth quite more. This differed from Jessie and Paige who focus more on afterlife. It was very interesting hearing their side of the way they live. They also told us about their plans to move to Turkey. This was extremely interesting to me because I could not imagine moving that far away. Jessie explained that the first three years of their time in Turkey would be spent learning the native language so they could better communicate with the citizens. When we got on the topic of holidays they explained how they planned to have a big Thanksgiving and Christmas since it would be one of their last holidays with their families. After dinner Paige offered us dessert. The women have friends over almost every night of the week so they had a surplus of left over desserts.

From these two women I learned what is was truly like to live your live caring for other people. They live their whole lives trying to better the lives of others. They were both very thankful for the democracy that the United States has to offer. As I mentioned early they both felt no need to complain because the US has given them so much. This was a real eye opener to me because I often hear of people complaining about their rights as a US citizen. Although I do feel that there are some issues with the democracy in the US, and can honestly say that we have it way better than many other countries. Jessie and Paige helped make this more clear to me. In our class we often talk about how we can better the lives of people around us. Jessie and Paige better the lives of people around them by sharing their generosity and kindness with everyone. After an hour and a half Jessie and Paige said it was time to put their babies to bed. However, before Lily and I left Jessie and Paige made sure sure to let us know that we were welcome back at any time. I’m very glad that I had the chance to meet these two wonderful young women and I feel that I would never forget this experience.

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Strangers Aren’t So Strange After All

By Abbi

When this project was first assigned, I was somewhat hesitant to jump right in. The idea of having dinner with a bunch of strangers was somewhat daunting to me because it usually takes me a little while to warm up to people before I’m comfortable enough to have a more serious conversation with them. However, this project was not nearly as awful as I thought it would be.

My Kentucky Kitchen Table group consisted of me (Abbi), Scott, Wil, Ellery, and Nancy.

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A little bit about our group:

  • I am an Accounting major from Lexington. I am the second oldest of four children, and I am a member of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority here at WKU.
  • Ellery is a Biology major from Danville. She has an older sister and a younger brother, and grew up surrounded by her family and neighbors. She is also a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority.
  • Scott is a Biology major from Louisville. Scott is from a more rural area in Louisville, where he grew up with his younger brother, and enjoys activities such as hunting, working out, and spending time with friends. He belongs to the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.
  • Wil is a Biology major from Bowling Green. He has a younger sister and a younger brother, and he is a member of Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) here at WKU.
  • Nancy is a Biology professor here at WKU. Nancy has two children and lives here in Bowling Green, where she also grew up and attended college as an undergraduate. Nancy was a member of Alpha Omicron Pi when she attended WKU. She has a Ph.D. and attended medical school in both Tennessee and Missouri (I don’t remember exactly), where she met her husband.

Obviously, our group was a little bit skewed in terms of majors, but we were diverse in other ways. For example, except for Nancy, and Wil, we are not from Bowling Green and are still not very familiar with the area. Also, Ellery and Scott grew up in more rural areas as well. Although everyone in the group participates in Greek life, no one belongs to the same organization. It was very interesting to see how our similarities and differences both contributed to our conversation.

The original plan was for our group to meet at Nancy’s house and have dinner with her and her family, however there were a few scheduling and logistical conflicts, so we adjusted our plan. We ended up meeting in DaVinci’s on the first floor of Snell Hall here on campus, and we all enjoyed our choice of pizza from the restaurant. At first the conversation was a little bit awkward and just a lot of small-talk, but after we got into it, things started to flow more smoothly.

We started off with the required question: “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Nancy explained that to her, citizenship requires personal responsibility from everyone. Everyone really just has to do their part in contributing to the overall good and benefit of the community. This requires a lot of understanding and communication, which are topics we have been learning a great deal about in our class this semester.

We also talked about what we thought were the best aspects of our world today. Nancy said that technology has been very beneficial in terms of communication and having access to a multitude of information from around the world. Again, this benefits the way people collaborate and communicate with each other, and I think that technological advances will only increase in the future. However, we also discussed the downsides of technology, such as how everything is becoming the same in terms of language and format, which lessens diversity in communities.

A third topic that we discussed is the concept of neighbors. Ellery, Wil, and I mentioned that we all grew up being very close to our neighbors, and it has always been a very prevalent aspect of our lives. Scott added that he does not have much experience with neighbors because he is from a more rural area in Louisville and did not live in a neighborhood. Nancy told us that her family does have neighbors where they live in downtown Bowling Green, and that the kids are similar in age, however they don’t always hang out together.

Acting in a neighborly way with consideration for others is a significant part of being a good citizen. For example, Nancy mentioned that her family decided to install a fence in their backyard because her family has chickens, but they were somewhat of a nuisance to her neighbors. Because Nancy and her family valued their relationship with their neighbors more than letting the chickens roam free, they put up a fence to keep things peaceful.

We then got to talking about what kind of people we want to be and we want our children to be, and through this, there was a heavy focus on service. Nancy’s parents raised her in a way that emphasized service to others and to the community, and this is what she is teaching her children now. My parents instilled the same values in me and I had many opportunities in high school to serve my community. I also have the same opportunities to work in my community in college through my sorority, and I know Ellery, Scott, and Wil have similar opportunities as well.

Overall, the Kentucky Kitchen Table experience was very enriching and not at all awful. I realized that even though I could see obvious differences among our group, the conversation revealed many similarities that connected us in ways that we wouldn’t ordinarily realize. Although we may have different backgrounds and beliefs, the members of my group we able to find common ground and agreed on many simple ideas about community. I think that this realization is a key part of living in a community and acting as a good citizen towards others. This project has emphasized the class themes of how we can live better together and what it means to be a good citizen in today’s world. We can do this by taking responsibility and contributing to the overall good of society through acts of service, consideration for others, and communication and understanding.

Don’t take things for granted

by Scott

One thing I looked for in a group for this project was diversity.  Our table consisted of five people representing Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, and Danville.  Present at the table was Abbi, Ellery, Nancy, Scott, and Wil.  Abbi is an accounting major, that’s very goal oriented.  She is an extrovert and loves to volunteer in the community.  Ellery is a biology major and identifies as a Republican.  She is an extrovert, who spends most of her free time reading.  She loves politics and would do anything for her community.  Nancy has a PhD and is currently teaching Biology at Western.  She identifies as a Democrat and devotes all of her free time to serving the needs of Bowling Green.  I, Scott, am majoring in Biology as well with the hopes of becoming a doctor one day.  I identify as a Republican and spend most of my free time at the Preston Center.  Wil is majoring in Biology, and is a very studious person.  He is more of an introvert and identifies as a Republican.

We focused on what citizenship meant outside of voting, paying taxes, and following laws.  Nancy was quick to point out that this was a loaded question but provided a clear cut answer.  She said that the most important thing one can do as a citizen is to serve his/her community.  Nancy believes that a community is only as strong as its weakest link which requires unified communication.  She said that it can be very difficult to communicate with others who are much different at times but it’s a great skill in life to have.  She also said that things don’t always go as planned so you must be flexible.  For example, some neighbors might promise to help with a neighborhood improvement project and then not show up.  When I was listening to her talk, I was making connections to our class.  For example, just by deliberating in class this semester I have come to embrace how different people think.  You can pick things up and learn to value different perspectives by talking to others who are different than you.

We asked Nancy the question, “What advice would you give to people running for office in our country?”  She was quite hesitant to answer at first because politics is such a hot topic.  She eventually offered up the idea that we should treat one another as we would want to be treated.  While that may sound elementary, it’s the biggest weakness our country currently possesses.  During the presidential debates, the candidates focused more on insulting one another rather than their policies they would like to implement.  This caused the citizens to get nasty with each other and the country has become split.  John Dickinson once said, “united we stand, divided we fall.”  This semester I have learned that productive deliberation is a good thing, but once a decision has been reached, the group should come together to support it.  We are not always going to get what we want which is why it’s important to learn how to make the best out of every situation.

 

We then asked Nancy the question, “how do you think your job relates to your role as a citizen?”  She laughed, and went on to say if we had told her she was going to be teaching college kids one day she would have laughed in our faces.  She went to medical school and received her PhD but felt that she could make a stronger impact teaching the upcoming generation.  Nancy also said she wanted to make a difference in research.  She wanted me to emphasize one thing when sharing our project with the class and that was don’t pick a job based on money.  She could be making double what she is now but she feels as if this is her calling and will benefit her community more than anything.  I could relate this to the class because we have talked about sacrificing ourselves sometimes for the greater good.  Nancy is a perfect example of this and she isn’t struggling by any means.  We asked Nancy if she had ever had a conversation with someone from a really different background.  She stated that she hadn’t until she attended Western Kentucky University.  Nancy told us not to take the diversity on this campus for granted because you can learn so much from others that you never would have gotten the opportunity to have before.  Western truly does have international reach and the opportunity to understand what other’s lives are like in places other than the United States is quite unique.  We take things for granted in our everyday lives that are major concerns in other countries.  Sometimes we need to be brought back down to earth.

We asked Nancy, “What kind of person do you want to be?” She responded, “The person I am today.” When asked to clarify, she offered up examples of what her family does during the holiday season every year.  Nancy’s family delivers food to families in the Bowling Green community for Thanksgiving as well as buy presents for children whose families can’t afford them.  For one of her kids birthdays, they celebrated by doing a service project as a family.  This says a lot because I don’t know too many kids who would choose to serve others on their birthday.  Nancy’s giving attitude has rubbed off on others making Bowling Green a better place.

In conclusion, this project made me realize a lot about myself.  I now realize that I could be donating more of my time and talent to the community instead of being selfish.  I also see how the Bowling Green Community is much different than the Louisville Community.  While the people in these cities may be two hours apart, they’re still Americans that should be coming together for the common good.  After talking to Nancy, I got to see how we (citizens) can sometimes struggle working together to solve problems in the community.  Nancy showed that with enough work, progress can be made.  I will carry the lessons I’ve learned in this class for the rest of my life and will try to crack the codes to the wicked problems we have discussed. kentucky-kitchen-table