An evening with new friends

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By Caleb

Even though I have been at college for just half a semester, I can say that Honors 251 (Citizen and Self) is one of my favorite classes here at WKU. The critical thinking and discussion format of the class is something that as a biology major I do not get very often. Furthermore, the discussions have been far more civil than I have seen before. It is much more often a deliberation rather than a debate. This being said, I was very nervous about the project. I was unsure of how well the discussion would go or if I would have anything constructive to say. Regardless of my initial feelings, I was still excited for the very unique project and approached the table with as much confidence as I could muster. The saying “fake it till you make it” is somewhat appropriate here.

My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place in the city of Bowling Green not too far off from campus. Though I had planned it in my mind to eventually schedule a Kentucky Kitchen Table in my hometown, this specific table was prescheduled for me by my professor who had offered it to anyone who wanted an easy, local table to go to. It was clearly a good opening I was willing to take. Additionally, this table also involved member from the Honors College, so this dinner turned out to be a great opportunity to get to know members of the Mahurin Honors College better.

I was emailed that there would be four of us in attendance, though there would only be three of us in total because one of our other guests, Sharon, was unable to make it. I got into contact with the other student I would be eating with beforehand. Her name was Taylor-Grace and was a freshman in the other Honors College Citizen and Self class. We decided it would be best to carpool together since I had a car on campus.

Coming into the driveway, the house was beautiful with vines growing on the side, a swing on the front porch, and pumpkins to signal the fall festivities ahead. Being warmly welcomed inside, I immediately noticed how tastefully furnished the house was. We joked that it looked as if it came right out of the TV show fixer upper on HGTV. The dinner was being held in the home of our host, Caitlin who worked as the coordinator of constituent relations in the Mahurin Honors College. She was twenty-six years old, a WKU alum, and her husband also worked at WKU in the sports department as the media director. Though we were all connected to Western and the Mahurin Honors College, I would soon find we had some diverse interests and opinions to bring to the table.

For dinner we had a wonderful jambalaya made by Caitlin. There was also some delicious greens picked from Caitlin’s parents’ garden.  Taylor-Grace and I contributed by bringing some sweet desserts to eat later. I brought a s’more dessert that my mom has made for years. Taylor-Grace brought a Bowling Green classic: a box of doughnuts from the Great American Donut Shop which is near campus. The two flavors of blueberry and glazed happened to be some of my favorite.

After some time eating and introducing ourselves we started asking some questions suggested to us in our preparation materials. The conversation started out with the same question as all the other Kentucky Kitchen Tables, “beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Caitlin was the first to respond saying that citizenship is definitely beyond the bare minimum of what’s expected of citizens. She differentiated “good” citizens and “bad” citizens. Bad citizenship is doing bare minimum, only paying taxes and following laws. Though this is not necessarily being a bad citizen in the sense of actively harming the community, this group of people are not giving their part to the community. The “good” form of citizenship she described was the opposite the complete opposite. She emphasized some simple and good things we can do to be better citizens, for example getting to know our neighbors and volunteering our time to charitable organizations. These are steps that are achievable by most anyone and can be taken in small strokes. Caitlin told us about how she volunteers the first Wednesday of every month and makes sure to contribute to the community. Caitlin also mentioned that she saw a clear connection between what she does at the Honors College and how it helps her in her role as a citizen. By promoting the Honors College and helping fund the projects she does, her reach helps students, faculty, and community members alike.

Taylor -Grace and I agreed with everything she had to say relating it to our own Honors 251 (Citizen and Self) class. We both added how a good citizen should be able to talk about difficult issues with one another without letting our own beliefs get in the way of moving toward a common goal. I specifically mentioned how in my own community, I feel like rarely can citizens ever talk about topics with as much civility as our class. This was especially apparent in students from my own high school. Taylor-Grace went on to mention how the class reminded her GSP [Governor’s Scholar Program] seminar to which I agreed with her. In seminar, difficult topics were discussed in a way where we did our best to empathize with others even if they experience or opinion they were describing was different from our own. We both felt the class promotes productive and open conversation about issues that are pertinent today which I felt was reflected in the conversations we were having that night. I was constantly reminded of the article “How We Talk Matters,” where we discussed the importance of productive conversation. This conversation arrived when diverse and different opinions are used to fuel a multi-perspective argument rather than a divided and polarized view.

After that conversation seemed to have ended we went to the preparatory materials for another discussion question, and we then began to talk about some social issues that we felt were close to our heart. Caitlin was first again to say that she wanted to stop animal abuse here in Bowling Green relating it to her own dogs. I mentioned suicide and depression as many of those close to me have dealt with or continue to deal with the awful disease. I felt this topic was close to me because the answer is in helping others understand the disease and have more empathy for one another. When it came to Taylor-Grace, she couldn’t really pick just one issue so instead talked about an anecdotal issue in her hometown. The Winterfest Toys for Kids is a program that allows kids who would otherwise not gotten anything for Christmas an opportunity to get a gift. Volunteers shop from an open ended shopping list to get kids that gift under the tree. I and Caitlin both talked about similar programs in our own hometowns.

Afterwards, we dug into the question about the types of people we wanted to be in the future. Caitlin said she wanted to be the kind of person that people respected when they saw her. She was quick to clarify that it was not for popularity reasons and did not want to demand it from others. She instead described how she instead wanted to earn it through her actions so that those she has touched in her life can look to her and say that she is a respectable person. Taylor-Grace said that she wanted to be a good friend. She wanted to be the person that people can turn to in times of trouble and wants to live an open life. I said I wanted to be the person that is always growing and always learning. From day to day, week to week, and year to year, I want to be a better than the person I was before. I think there is something to learn from every day and something new to grow from just around the corner in my life. I can also see how the bridge can be useful in this context. In order to achieve the goals we have in life, it is crucial to understand not only one but both sides of “the bridge,” where one side is where we are at and the other side is where we want to be as a society/world. We need to understand who we are now and what are capabilities are so that we know what we our possibilities are, and the other side needs to be well defined and understood in so that you can approach life with a clear goal in mind. Otherwise you are aimlessly moving from day to day not approaching the goal in mind directly or efficiently. So you must know yourself and what you want if you want your dreams to become a reality.

We finished up the night by digging into the desserts. We kept on talking letting college, home, and just life frame each conversation jumping from topic to topic just letting the conversation flow. I’m certain we stayed longer than Caitlin expected, but the project turned into a unique growing opportunity to get to know two strangers better. I learned the simple power of getting out of your comfort zone to just enjoy the simple things about life like the kindness of strangers, the civility of a conversation, or simply delicious home cooked food! Overall, the night was one of wonderful food, wonderful conversation, and wonderful people.

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Union Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Sam


My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place in my home in Union, Kentucky. The names of the people who participated in the dinner, not including myself, are Vince, Elizabeth, Janice, and Manda.
Vince, my father, is 53 years old and a father of three. He spent his early childhood in Southern California, but went to high school in Northern Kentucky so his step-father could pursue a job opportunity. After graduating high school, he immediately went into construction and has been in construction sales ever since. He was raised Catholic.
Elizabeth, my step-mother, is 42 years old. She grew up in Gallatin, Tennessee. She later left Gallatin for Bowling Green as she attended WKU. She obtained a degree in education and was a high school business teacher for a few years before deciding teaching was not her passion. After some time in real estate, she then settled on a career in Human Resources. Roughly eight years ago, through mutual friends, she met my father. She is Methodist but mainly identifies as Christian.
Janice, my grandmother, is 76 years old and a mother of four. She grew up in rural Indiana and, pursuing a job opportunity and family, eventually moved to Southern California. At the time, she was a secretary for a phone company. This is where she met her husband, who would later move her and her four kids to Northern Kentucky. Once in Northern Kentucky, she got a job at a local news station while working on a degree in education. She would go on to spend many years teaching middle schoolers. She is Catholic.
Manda, my grandmother’s friend, is 70 years old. I invited her to dinner because I do not know her very well, and I believed she could add a unique and diverse perspective to the conversation. She is a mother but did not specify how many kids she has. She grew up in Peoria, Illinois in a progressive household. Her mother was a member of the media, so Manda, naturally, pursued a career in broadcasting. She moved to Northern Kentucky after hearing of a job opening at a local news station. This is where her career in the media took off, and where she met my grandmother. She did not mention her religious affiliation.
The first question I asked at dinner was, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” The responses I got were very intriguing. Vince and Elizabeth both agreed that citizenship was ultimately the individual’s responsibility of cultivating a better community. They believe a good citizen is active in the community and helps their neighbors when need be. Manda furthered this idea by pointing out how citizenry is an active effort that looks to better society, and effective citizenship that betters our nation, and eventually the world, cannot be achieved until it is practiced in our homes. She emphasized how the home is a microcosm for the world and the birthplace of proper citizenry. The interesting thing I noticed from this discussion was the consensus that moral obligation is a necessary component of being a citizen. Everyone participating in the conversation believed that it is their responsibility to look after their neighbors. It is the “right” thing to do. “Why is this the right thing to do?” I asked. Vince, Elizabeth, and Janice mentioned their faith. Manda noted how she would want others to look out for her, so she looks out for them. This is citizenship to them.
I then asked the question, “How do you think your job relates to your role as a citizen?” The responses I received were similar to the first question. Vince mentioned how he enjoys the constant interaction he has with people in construction sales. He looks forward to seeing clients and hearing about their lives. He mainly just wants to use his job as an outlet to reach others and help them with whatever he can. Janice said her years as a middle school teacher where propelled by a desire to shape young minds and hopefully prepare them for being an active member of their community. She was on the ground level of citizen training. Elizabeth said her job in human resources gives her a firsthand account of the issues fellow citizens are facing and how they are responding to them. She views her position as an opportunity to guide those struggling and steer them towards greater production in the workplace and community. Again, the theme of moral obligation was prevalent. They all think it is their responsibility, as contributing members of society, to help those in need so that they can contribute, perpetuating the cycle of neighbor helping neighbor and societal improvement.
The conversation then got a little lighter as I asked, “Did you ever have meals around the table with your family growing up? Did you enjoy it?” Manda noted she was a raised in a traditional household that emphasized family unity through dinner. It was an expectation to eat dinner together because this was the time for true cohesion. Janice and Elizabeth reiterated this, stating they were both raised in traditional families and enjoyed the time they spent with the family at dinner. Vince, however, said family dinners were not a priority of his childhood due to both his parents constantly working. He said that the lack of family dinners, and the effect this had on his development, cemented the importance of the ceremonial event for family building, urging him to implement it into his children’s lives. This demonstrated to me how important our home life is in shaping us into the individuals and citizens we are.
My next question was, “What kind of person do you want to be?” It took few minutes for them to think of their responses. Elizabeth was first to chime in. She said she wanted to be a better mother and Christian. She admitted to not adamantly practicing her faith and that she needs to. Vince and Janice both desired to be more informed in our information-abundant society. They both stressed how critical it is to discern what is correct information from the incorrect and that they would like to be more skilled at this. Manda, interestingly, mentioned a desire to be more empathetic. She stated empathy was key to promoting social change, and, through empathizing, we can become more informed, and morally well-rounded, citizens. Everyone hit on the desire to become either better moral executioners or more informed with the goal of it furthering moral execution. It is interesting how this theme of morality seems to be the foundation for citizenship and improving as individuals within society.
I then asked, “What advice would you give people running for office in our country?” Vince responded first, noting that someone running for office needs to take into consideration the views of all his/her constituents, and a noticeable effort towards creating a unified nation is key. Manda pointed out how most politicians tend to campaign in the areas containing those funding their campaign. According to Manda, politicians will never take into consideration the views of all their constituents as long as a select few campaign donors are influencing policy platforms and campaigning. This snowballed into the topic of structural flaws in our government, and how these flaws could potentially be fixed. However, everyone at dinner spoke of this governmental reformation as a hopeless and nearly-impossible cause. This forced me to consider how any kind of societal change can occur when the people charged with inciting said change believe its hopeless.
Another question I asked that sparked interesting dialogue was, “Is there anything you can think to do that might make things better for you or your neighbors where you live?” Janice said a significant, but small, change she has made that has created an increasingly-positive neighborhood environment is simply making herself available to her neighbors. She has started a dialogue with other members of the neighborhood and informed them that if they ever need anything, or just want to hang out, she is here for them. She said it has created a friendlier, dependent neighborhood that willingly interacts. Elizabeth mentioned that she also believes an open, honest dialogue with the neighbors will create a safer and smarter community. Similar iterations of community conversation came from Vince and Manda. It is interesting and sensical that simply talking is what can lead to more efficiently operating communities.
My final question was, “What social issue is closest to your heart and why?” This question got somewhat heated as some had differing opinions on prominent social issues. Vince immediately gave his social issue: NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. He believes that the national anthem precedes all social statements and change, affirming everyone should stand for the flag first and then discuss social injustices. In short, the national anthem comes first, and then discussion is had. Manda, being the individual I do not know very well, responded to this with respectful, yet defensive, disagreement. She firmly stated the national anthem means different things to different cultures, and kneeling for the flag is the epitome of being American. It is an individual’s right. If these demonstrations are not done, according to her, no social change can occur. This then led to the conversation of whether kneeling NFL players are kneeling for a cause, or just kneeling with the intent of following their teammates stance. The debate ultimately ended with the recognition we can never truly know someone else’s motives. Elizabeth and Janice did not have much to say as this was discussed. I found it interesting how two people can look at the same situation and have radically varying perspectives. It made sense considering Manda’s liberal and Vince’s conservative background. The main takeaway was that this “debate” over when it is appropriate to protest remained a civilized discussion. It did not escalate into an argument due to both parties’ recognition of the importance of empathy.
One of the main things I learned was how important morals are considered to be in citizenship. Everyone at the table defined citizenship as a moral obligation to care for our neighbors and, thus, further society. Another takeaway was that healthy discussion was key to actually achieving a greater, more representative society. They recognized the need for empathy in order to have healthy discussions, and a community without dialogue is divisive. Finally, there is a sense of hopelessness clouding people’s desire to change their societies. Unfortunately, some believe we are trapped in our current society and view change as dauntingly impossible.
Honestly, I was surprised by how similar everything discussed was to our class. We talked about the role of empathy, how morality factors into our lives, and the presence of wicked problems. The central idea that was most prevalent was definitely the importance of deliberation. The chapter we read, “How We Talk Matters” discusses how the discrepancy between what is happening and what should be happening (like the bridge metaphor we discussed in class) can truly be overcome when a healthy dialogue is created. By listening to and understanding each other’s ideas, we can venture towards compromise and social change. Everyone around my table viewed deliberation as the first step towards understanding, and even practiced this when debating when it is appropriate to protest.

A Dinner with New Friends

By Taylor-Grace

When we were introduced to the idea of Kentucky Kitchen Table, I was more than ecstatic because food and people are two of my favorite things. I knew that I wanted to do my Kentucky Kitchen Table in Bowling Green rather than my hometown from the very beginning; mainly because I thought the idea of getting to know citizens of Bowling Green would be much more interesting. I am so glad that I got to experience this…Now let’s dive into the dinner!

I was assigned to be hosted by Caitlin, who is a coordinator for constituent relations in the Mahurin Honors College. Caitlin lives here in Bowling Green, not very far from campus. Her home was gorgeous! It looked just like one that you would see on Fixer Upper on HGTV. Caleb, a student in another Citizen and Self seminar, also joined us for dinner. Caleb and I decided to carpool from Western Kentucky University’s campus to Caitlin’s house for convenience. We both took desserts for us to have after our dinner that night.

When we arrived, Caitlin led us through her living room into her kitchen, which connected to the dining room. We sat our desserts on the island in the kitchen and then took our seats at the table. Caitlin had prepared a jambalaya for dinner with roasted zucchini and squash from her parents’ garden. Caitlin then offered us a choice of tea, water, or ginger beer for our beverage. Caleb was brave enough to go out of his comfort zone and he tried the [non-alcoholic] ginger beer. Our meal was absolutely delicious. I loved every bite of it!

We discussed many different subjects during our dinner, but we first started off with talking about Western Kentucky University, our majors, our favorite class, and how Caitlin attended Western Kentucky University as well. Caitlin, who was originally from Breckinridge County, Kentucky, was a public relations major during her time here at Western Kentucky University and went on to work in Public Relations for Country Music Television after college, but then decided that she missed Western Kentucky University and thus decided to begin working at the university. Caleb, who is from Barren County, Kentucky, major’s in biology and he is on a pre-med track. I find this impressive because I know that I would never be able to have the time and dedication to do this. I, Taylor-Grace, told Caitlin and Caleb that my major was marketing and explained that I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do with it yet. Caleb and I both agreed that Honors 251 was our favorite class. My reasoning being because it reminded me so much of the Governor’s Scholars Program and the seminars that I had during my time there. Caleb also attended Governor’s Scholars Program and said that it reminded him of seminar as well. We both discussed our love for the Governor’s Scholars Program and the friendships that we had made there. When you go to the Governor’s Scholars Program you can always make a connection with typically anyone around you, we discussed how we had mutual friends from the Governor’s Scholars Program. Caitlin explained to us that this class did not exist when she was a student in the honors college. She went on to tell us that her and her husband met while they were both students at Western Kentucky University, but what was interesting, was that they had not met before, though they both grew up only 15 minutes apart and knew some of the same people, but didn’t know each other until they met at a tailgate. She said that she was eating a BBQ sandwich that she had gotten from the Honors College and he asked where she had gotten it. She said that they began dating soon after that and that they’ve been together ever since.

I then asked Caitlin the required question, “beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws what does citizenship mean to you?” She responded with, “It means being a good neighbor, giving back to your community through volunteerism, and getting involved.” She talked about how it’s going the extra mile instead of just doing what is required of you. We all agreed with this statement and felt like we’re pretty good citizens, but there is always more that we can do to be better. When we discussed this topic, I thought a lot about the three central questions. Specifically, “how do we live better (or less badly) together?” If we all take part in our citizenship, we will all be living better together. When people choose to not act accordingly as citizens, they are not working towards living better together.

We also talked a lot about how volunteerism is important in all of our communities and we asked each other the question of what our favorite philanthropy was. Caitlin stated that her passion was animals and she wants to do what she can to reduce animal abuse in the community of Bowling Green. Caleb talked about suicide and depression are important to him and he wants to do what he can with that specific cause. I personally could not pick one for certain because there are numerous events that I have worked to give back to the community, but one that I hold special to my heart is Winterfest Toys for Kids. I explained the Caitlin and Caleb that I grew up in a very rural community where many children go without meals during their summer and Christmas break and how many of those children don’t have a toy to find under their Christmas tree on Christmas morning Winterfest Toys for Kids was designed so that underprivileged children in my hometown and their families can have a Christmas dinner together. At the dinner, each child in attendance receives a Christmas gift. Many of the children wait to open the gift until Christmas morning. Events like this give me a better appreciation for the opportunities that I have and the things I have been blessed with. This topic relates greatly to our reading about “To Hell with Good Intentions,” by Ivan Illich but in a positive way. All of the issues that were on our hearts were things that could be helped and fixed right here in the United States. This helped me to see that there are so many problems here that we can work towards solving and we don’t have to go overseas to help out.

After discussing the issue that was closest to each of our hearts, we talked about what type of people we wanted to be. We all agreed that we wanted to be better people and that we wanted people to be able to look at us and say, “oh, they’re doing something good!” Caitlin said that she wanted to be respected. She explained that it was not in a way that demanded respect, but rather by doing good and people seeing the good that she is doing and them being able to say they want to do good like her, as if she was being a role model. I thought this response to the question was awesome! And it honestly made me look up to her in saying this because I hope to one day say the same thing for myself. Caleb explained that he wants to be the person who is always learning and always growing. I thought that that was something great to be too. I explained to Caleb and Caitlin that I wanted people to see me as a loyal friend. Someone that they could depend on in any time of need. I feel like that all of these attributes and types of people that we want to be are people needed in the world.

We then concluded our dinner by eating donuts from Great American Donuts and having small talk about Western Kentucky University, college, and just life in general. I am so beyond thankful for this experience because it allowed me to step out of my comfort zone in discussing some huge topics with people that I had never known before the night began. Kentucky Kitchen Table is an experience that I probably will never have something else that is similar to it. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to meet Caitlin and Caleb because they are people who I will be able to connect with even beyond this point during my next four years at Western Kentucky University. Kentucky Kitchen Table has had an even greater impact on my life than I had imagined it would and I am thankful for that. I believe that this was such a great learning experience and it is a project that should continue to take place in Honors 251 with Elizabeth. Having this experience of talking to two people that I did not know, has also helped me to have better comments and discussion points in Honors 251. Overall, I am just genuinely happy about my experience with Kentucky Kitchen Table. If the opportunity arises, I would SO do it all over again.

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Hannah’s KKT

By Hannah

Late on a Thursday evening I headed to a dinner where I was to eat with two girls I had never met before.  Very nervously, and after 10 minutes spent trying to parallel park, I knocked on the front door of my host’s apartment, cupcakes in hand.  I was greeted with the smiling face of my host, McKenzie, and an adorable, chunky little dog who seemed more excited than either of us.  Walking in I noticed the many walls dedicated to Western pictures, paintings, and other memorabilia.  We heard a knock on the door and welcomed in our other dinner member, Sabrina, who is also a Citizen and Self student.

Our Kentucky Kitchen Table took place in Bowling Green, Kentucky and consisted of many helpings of mac and cheese and chicken nuggets as well as Oreo’s and cupcakes.  As the three of us all sat around talking on couches and bar stools we realized how far from strangers we actually were and it seemed as though we had a lot in common.

I quickly learned that McKenzie had been my sister’s RA for two years and it was funny to realize how connected we were.  She asked me all about how my sister was, how Auburn and vet school were going, and especially about how my sister’s new puppy, a golden retriever named Zuri (all of which she knew), was. McKenzie seemed to have been close to my sister as she was very excited in telling me that they were Facebook friends and knew all about my sister’s 10 week trip to South Africa.  After filling her in on my sister’s life I asked her a little bit about her own life here in Bowling Green.  She graduated from Western and is currently working further on her psychology major and communications minor in School Psychology and the EDS program.  She is from a rural area outside of Louisville but both of her parents attended Western which is where they met and fell in love.  Growing up Western was the only school she had really ever thought about going to and she still thinks it was the perfect decision. 

When asked how she described herself, McKenzie said that the one thing all of her friends described her as was an intense lover of senior dogs.  Her dog 10 year old dog Johnny Karate, yes named after Parks and Rec, was her newest addition to the family, being rescued from the shelter, and never left her side.  Her love for him was evident in the many chicken nuggets he was slipped throughout the night, and even though she said he did not get that special treatment often I had a feeling she was just hiding how spoiled he was, as shown by his very large belly.  She told us the story of how he was found in a Walmart parking lot so she felt that she had to make up for this by giving into him, saying that he won the arguments most of the time.

I learned that Sabrina also has a degree involving communications and the two talked about who their favorite professors were and McKenzie gave some insight on who Sabrina should try to take and who she should steer clear of.  I also learned that Sabrina came to Western not knowing anybody from her hometown of Nashville and, like me, had made a lot of friends here.

We all three talked about whether we enjoyed living here or not and all had different answers which I thought showed our different personalities. McKenzie said that while she loved living in Bowling Green and loved the people here she wants to move somewhere else after living in Kentucky for her entire 23 years of life. She noted that on her study abroad trip (which I will discuss later) she fell in love with the weather in England as it never got too hot and snowed just enough for you to say “wow this is pretty” and not “oh I hope I’m not snowed in for weeks.” Sabrina, being from Nashville, said that sometimes it gets a little boring, which I can agree to.  I personally love living in Bowling Green but I think I should attribute that to the fact that my parents are not here to tell me I can’t go out past midnight (sorry mom.)

As we ate our meal, we talked about how our semesters are going and our plans for the coming years.  We all seemed to have an interest in studying abroad and McKenzie told about her experience, as Sabrina and I were very intrigued. McKenzie studied in England at Harlaxton and told of all the fun adventures she took when she had time away from all of her school work.  She said it was one of the greatest experiences of her life. Sabrina shared her plans of studying in Norwich, England at East Anglia University in the Spring of 2018.  I too am interested in studying abroad and while I have not committed to a trip I am very interested in taking a weeklong trip to Bolivia where nursing students can help underprivileged people by setting up medical tents.

Once we were finished eating and we seemed to be running out of things to talk about, as strangers eventually do, and before things got too awkward, we got to the core question and the real reason we were there.  We asked McKenzie what citizenship meant to her, beyond things like voting, paying taxes, and following laws.  There was a long pause and we all chuckled a little as she said she needed some time to think of her answer.  After a few moments, she concluded that being a citizen means that we all help each other out.  She said “we are all here on this Earth together, we might as well make it easier for each other instead of getting so wrapped up and miserable in our own lives.”  Another thing she said that I really liked was that our goal as humans should be to make our little corner of the Earth a little brighter and that kindness is such a small thing but that we don’t have enough of it, meaning we just need to try and pick everyone up and make the world a happy place.  Sabrina and I both agreed and added a little bit to what we thought being a citizen meant.  Sabrina said that citizenship is about the community and working to live well with people around us, even if it gets hard sometimes.  I personally think that we all need to be kind to each other because as cliché as it sounds, we really do not know what is going on in other people’s lives.  After we all talked about what citizenship meant to us McKenzie jokingly asked Johnny what he thought it meant and I imagined his response to be something along the lines of “citizenship means kindness and kindness means you give me more nuggets.”

While our conversations never got super in depth on our values or our morals or anything of that nature I noticed how similar our lives were in many aspects and how easily it was for all three of us to share about ourselves. This dinner taught me that even though we may not all come from the same places, we are not all necessarily interested in all of the same things, and we are varying ages, there can still be thoughtful, pleasant, and insightful conversations.  I think that McKenzie was a wonderful example of being a good citizen by inviting two random college students into her home and helping them with a project, this is kindness on her part. On mine and Sabrina’s side, kindness came from the thoughtful desserts and help we gave each other.

This whole experience relates to the central question: “How do we live well together?”  We talked about how kindness would help us all live better together.  We were all very accepting of each other and respected what everyone had to say and this is yet another example of how we live better together.  This assignment reminded me of the reading that we had at the very beginning of the semester called “How We Talk Matters” by Keith Melville.  In the article, Melville discusses the effects of listening and not just talking.  To make the world a better place and to begin to live better together we need to thoughtfully listen to others instead of discarding opinions different than ours or discarding something someone says simply because they are different than us. In our conversation about what citizenship meant to us we built off of each others ideas in a very positive way and I think this should be something the world as a whole does more often to make everyone happier and live better together.

Going into this assignment I just wanted to get it over with because I am a somewhat shy person but McKenzie and Sabrina were very easy people to talk to and I think that we all had a very good time.   Overall I very much enjoyed this assignment and getting to meet new people and hear about their lives and talk about our differing opinions on certain things. 

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Table Talk for Togetherness

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By Sabrina

On a rainy Thursday evening, I trekked the 15 minute walk into unknown territory for a dinner. Nervous, but excited, I knocked on the door, cookies in hand, to meet our gracious host, McKenzie.

The apartment was decorated with Western Kentucky University paraphernalia, and an eager dog, Johnny greeted me.

Our dinner in Bowling Green, Kentucky was very relaxed with plentiful helpings of macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. We gathered around on the couches and kitchen counters,  discussing majors, hometowns, and traveling.

McKenzie, our host, is a graduate student at Western Kentucky University. She is from a rural area outside of Louisville. Johnny, her dog, remained close to her side, and she shared with us her love for senior dogs. Mckenzie is the oldest of five in her family.

Hannah, another student in Honors 251, is studying to become a nurse anesthesiologist. Hannah is the youngest in her family, and both her older sister and brother also attended Western Kentucky University. Outgoing and friendly, Hannah talked about her cat she misses at home and her tight-knit group of friends she has made her at Western.

As we ate our meal, we discussed how our semester was going. McKenzie and I, both having communication in our degrees, discussed our favorite professors in the field. Mckenzie studied abroad in England at Harlaxton, saying she would love to live in England. After living in Kentucky for 23 years, she is ready to travel and go someplace new, but it will still be a few years, as she finishes school in 2019. Hannah and I both asked her many questions about study abroad, as I plan on studying abroad the Spring of 2018 in England at East Anglia University in Norwich. Hannah would like to go on some trips, but specifically a trip to Bolivia, where nursing students get the opportunity to help people with various medical needs.

When asked, “what does citizenship mean to you?” McKenzie pondered the thought for a while before responding. She concluded that it means helping each other out, as we are all here on this Earth, we might as well make it easier for each other. We get so wrapped into our own lives, but kindness and being helpful is a small thing that can make a huge difference. Hannah and I agreed. Hannah added that we all need to be kind to each other because we don’t know what is going on in people’s lives, and the harmony it gives can bring us all together. I added that citizenship is about community, and working to live well with people around us.

Jokingly, McKenzie asked “what does citizenship mean to you, Johnny?” Johnny, wagging his tail, stared up at Mckenzie, his eyes begging for food and attention. Throughout the dinner, he strutted around, eyeing plates of food, and even being adventurous enough to climb the couch and almost reach over to my plate on the table, but he proved to be slightly too short. “Is it about getting chicken nuggets?” she asked, feeding one to the now elated dog.

We asked each other how we liked living in Bowling Green, and we all agreed it is a nice place to live with low crime rates and things to do. Being from Nashville, I do get bored from time to time, and McKenzie agreed that she would like to live somewhere else eventually.

We discovered at the dinner that Hannah’s older sister and McKenzie knew each other beforehand, as Mckenzie has her Resident Assistant. Hannah was able to update Mckenzie on how her older sister was going, and they talked about an amazing trip her sister took to South Africa, full of helping people and animals, and petting wildlife.

From there, McKenzie talked about Johnny’s story. Johnny, her 10 year-old dog, was a fairly recent addition to her family, as her previous dog had passed away. Johnny was rescued from a Wal-Mart parking lot, where his previous owners had left him. The shelter took him in, and after being there for two months, Mckenzie decided to adopt him.

She asked us “Do either of you guys have dogs or pets at home?” to which i replied with my extensive story about our history of animals in the house, from cats to lizards. Both Mckenzie’s mom and my mom are not huge animal-lovers, so it was hard convincing our parents to let us have pets growing up.

Hannah has a cat, named Chunks, that was a birthday present a few years back. Her sister came across a litter of kittens, and was able to take some to care for, and Hannah fell in love with them.

While our conversations seemed relatively basic in writing, I found it interesting how our lives tied together in certain ways, and how easily conversation flowed among us. It truly demonstrated to me that people of various ages, majors, backgrounds, can sit down and still have a peaceful and enjoyable dinner. We helped each other throughout the dinner as well, by sharing our thoughts, giving tips about certain classes and professors, and showing enthusiasm for opportunities others had.

By doing this, we demonstrated our own sense of citizenship by being kind to each other. We each brought food for the others, provided each other transportation, and our host graciously opened up her house to the community.

I think doing events like this reminds us that we are a community and we work best when we get along with each other and take others’ lives into account. Hannah could have chosen not to give me a ride to the dinner, McKenzie could have chosen not to open up her home, each of us could have chosen not to bring food. All of these things are small things that didn’t take much effort, but show kindness and is simply a mannerly way of living in society. Community involves looking out for each other and putting aside differences and ultimately understanding other perspectives to better our relationships with other people in our community who may be different from us.

Our whole dinner and this assignment relates to one of our central questions in class, “How do we live well (or at least somewhat better) together?” Individually, each person has their own array of gifts and talents, as well as their own backgrounds and cultures. By working together, communities can strengthen each other and make the atmosphere we all live in more harmonious.

The Kentucky Kitchen Table dinner reminded me of one of our readings we did near the beginning of the semester by Keith Melville, called “How We Talk Matters.” Melville discusses how we shouldn’t be against each other, as we all live in this world together, which related to how our table views citizenship. It is not an “us versus them” mentality that we should have. We discussed issues rationally, and genuinely listened to each other’s thoughts and ideas, and built off of each other. Not only is this a more productive approach to talking about issues within our community, but it was a more sincere and thoughtful conversation, and demonstrated warmth and care for each other.
I was nervous going into the assignment, and part of me was dreaded it as I didn’t know the people I would be having dinner with, and I am generally shy around new people. However, the conversation seemed to run smoothly and while we have different interests and beliefs, we managed to find common-ground and had an enjoyable evening full of food and good conversation.  

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.