Posted in Life

Empty Bowls, Full Hearts

AEBP1

This past Sunday, I stood in line for over an hour in the sunny November heat (ah, Texas weather, you fickle beast) waiting for a bowl of soup. But, although the soup was quite tasty, it was the bowl, and the reason behind the bowl’s existence, that I was more excited about.

If you live near Austin and have never participated in the Austin Empty Bowl Project, you really should. Every year, thousands of hand-painted bowls of all shapes and sizes are donated to AEBP and sold on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The people who make the bowls come in all shapes and sizes too. Some are made by children and scout troops while others are painted by college students and local artists. There are even a few celebrity bowls that are auctioned off for big bucks. All proceeds from the event benefit the Capital Area Food Bank’s Kids Cafe and Meals for Kids programs.

Bowl signed by Cary Elwes in the silent auction
Bowl signed by Cary Elwes in the silent auction

The Austin Empty Bowl Project has been going on for seventeen years. It was founded in 1997 by Kit Adams, the owner of Clay Ways on Burnet Road. The event quickly outgrew the little pottery studio and, like everything in Austin, has become larger every year. These days, it’s conducted in true Austin style with live music both indoors and outside, gourmet soups donated from local restaurants, and tons of friendly volunteers, many of whom you’ll recognize from the local news. Dennis de la Peña from MyFoxAustin handed me my program today and chatted to my friend about the Cowboys before moving on down the line with a big smile on his face. Although AEBP is bigger than ever and has changed locations a few times, the mission is still the same: to raise money and awareness in the fight against hunger.

You may be thinking, Thousands of people? In line for soup? Doesn’t that take a while? It does. This is not a quick event. Don’t think you can pop down there, grab a bowl and be back home in an hour. Some people see the line and decide not to stay because it’s too long of a wait. But for me, the wait is part of the experience. Never in my life have I been at risk of going hungry. When I wait an hour for food, it’s by choice because I’m craving a particular treat or favorite locale. There’s always another restaurant I could go to or a grocery store nearby or simply back home to my own kitchen where I have more than enough healthy food (and plenty of the unhealthy kind too). But there are a lot of people—a lot of families and a lot of children—right here in our own community who don’t have those options. Once a year, I stand in line for over an hour to get a serving of soup, and I’m happy to do it. I love my beautiful hand-painted bowls, but I try not to ever lose sight of what the Austin Empty Bowl Project is really about.

From the program: “The bowl is yours to keep as a reminder of those whose bowls are empty.”
From the program: “The bowl is yours to keep as a reminder of those whose bowls are empty.”

This Thanksgiving, be grateful for all that you have, and if, like me, you have more than enough, consider giving a little back. The Austin Empty Bowl Project is over for this year, but you can still donate to the Capital Area Food Bank.

AEBP8[There are multiple ways to participate in AEBP. You can paint a bowl, volunteer, or just enjoy a day of choosing the perfect pottery and eating some delicious soup! And if you’re kicking yourself for missing this unique Austin event, then LIKE the Austin Empty Bowl Project on Facebook so you won’t forget next year!]

Author:

Carie Juettner is a teacher and writer in Austin, Texas. Her poems and short stories have appeared in publications such as Daily Science Fiction, Nature Futures, The Texas Poetry Calendar, and HelloHorror. She is currently working on a novel for the middle grade audience. Well, CURRENTLY she is drinking a cup of coffee and petting a dog, but she promises to get back to the novel in just a few minutes.

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