The Empty Bowls Dinner was held Sunday March 6, 2011 at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland (Pittsburgh, PA). The dinner, sponsored by The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Just Harvest, is a fundraiser in its 16th year of bringing financial support and community awareness to the issues of hunger and poverty.
This event is unique in that all guests wait in line for their serving of soup and bread, bringing awareness to what it feels like to stand in line as someone who is hungry and accept a meal from a stranger.
Do you know what it feels like to be truly hungry? Have you ever gone to bed with an empty stomach and not known if you will be able to get the next meal? Or have you put your child to bed knowing that they have not eaten enough, or at all, that day because you just didn’t have enough food. Have you skipped meals so that your children can have a little more on their plate?
When I am talking about being hungry, it isn’t that you ran an hour late from work and dinner is now cold. It isn’t that you opened the refrigerator and couldn’t find anything you liked. It isn’t that you’ve had busy week and couldn’t get to the grocery store and now have thin cupboards.
It is literally that there isn’t food available to create a healthy meal. It is lack of funds, even when you are busting your rear to make things work, to provide dinner. It is liking just about anything you can make a dinner out of because your stomach has lived on air and water for two days or more.
Hunger is waiting for the next paycheck, so you can pay a bill and eek out $40 to buy groceries for 5 for the week. Hunger is letting your kids eat first so they can concentrate in school the next day. Hunger is usually hiding all of these things from your children and from the people who know you, while you feel ill and despondent.
There is a pervasive misconception that people who are hungry or poor are miscreants; debase and unworthy individuals who just won’t work to get themselves out of their situation. I beg you to understand that is not the case. Once I stopped hiding how difficult times were and opened up in conversations to friends, families and neighbors, more and more people told me how “food insecure” or hungry they were. I have intelligent, educated, good, kindhearted people in my life that have to decide whether to pay a bill or feed their family; get produce and meat or put gas in the car; let their children be involved in school/community activities like the other kids or buy food they actually like to eat.
Trust me. I know firsthand how tough it is to make those decisions. A difficult situation put me there and it has taken time and assistance to get over that hurdle. BUT. I have people in my circle who are still hungry every day.
Without the efforts of the good people at places like the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Just Harvest there would be no recourse for those who suffer from hunger. I urge you to check out the links to their information and do what you can. And if you are having trouble feeding yourself and your family, I beg you to set aside your pride or stubbornness and ask them for help.
Rich or poor, hungry or fed, we can all be activists and supporters in the fight against hunger. The Empty Bowls Dinner brought a community to the table. Now, I invite you to the table. What can you do to fill an empty bowl?
Simply Put- You can’t understand the physical, emotional and psychological pains of hunger unless you’ve experienced it, but you can help put an end to those feelings for others.
There are so many things going on in our lives each day. And yet we still find time to be nice, kind and giving. Searching to find why we connect with others, I complete my 3 question mission with this post.
If you haven’t read my other posts, I had some thoughts that prompted three questions that I wanted to answer. The first, but final question from that list is:
1. What is it about organized charitable events, activities and the organizations themselves that draws us in and makes us want to give of ourselves?
The answer comes down to a simple idea. It is the story behind the organization and its mission that draws us in and motivates us to be helpful, kind or giving.
Sharing stories has long been part of our human legacy. Storytelling allows us to inform, educate, connect with and draw in our listeners. Once we feel a connection, we become engaged. That engagement is what motivates us into action for the events, activities and needs of the organizations.
This video created for Pangea Day- May 2010 sums up the power of storytelling in one minute:
We, as humans, connect to each other by way of sharing and experiencing our stories. When an organization lets us in on the essence of their existence, ‘the why of their being’, they establish an emotional connection with us. It happens in reverse, as well. In our own lives, things happen to our friends and family for which we have an emotional tie. When that happens, we may actively seek the organizations that helped or can help our loved ones. We become part of their story.
For more information on storytelling, it’s impact, storytelling grants, and other cool things go to the National Storytelling Network.
If you or your organization have a story to tell, here is a wonderful informational video session of a presentation at this year’s PodcampPittsburgh5. The session details how to tell a better story, either business or personal through the use of digital tools: Once Upon A Time: Telling Your Story Digitally- Christopher Whitlatch
Simply Put- The better the connection to the story or the people behind the stories is, the more willing we are to become part of the charitable events, the activities planned for a cause and to meet the needs of the organization.