empty bowls

Soup prepared by notable local restaurants.  Bowls handmade by local potters.  Proceeds benefitting a worthy local charitable organization.

Sounds to me like a good way to spend a Saturday morning.

“Empty Bowls (www.emptybowls.net) is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger.”  

For my $15 donation to the Interfaith charities of South Lee County, I got to pick out a bowl handmade by art students at Florida Gulf Coast University and fill it with soup donated by a dozen local restaurants.

Depending on your economic prejudices that’s an expensive lunch, an affordable piece of art, or a cheap contribution to an important cause.

When we arrived at FGCU’s sprawling campus nearly an hour after the event’s stated start time, the line to pick out a bowl, pay $15 and fill that bowl with soup (each vat was staffed with an FGCU student continuously stirring) wrapped around the arts complex and past the tables of a dozen local professional potters.  I heard there were 300 people in line when the proverbial gates opened.

When rumor trickled down that they had perhaps run out of soup (they had not; I had several refills), I overheard some wonder aloud if we still had to pay. “What’s that new chain restaurant that just opened in that weird strip mall?” Why would anyone want an empty bowl?

I hold the rather controversial view that hunger is a naturally occurring sensation, that need not be vigilantly fended off but embraced daily. It’s healthy, to a certain extent, to feel hungry.  Hunger communicates desire, is an outcome of action. When we listen to our bodies rather than the advice of marketers and food manufacturers, we’re healthier.

This view, of course, is a privileged one.

Most of the people who experience hunger in our world today aren’t doing so as a consequence of some altruistic choice, but as the result of economic and environmental realities outside their control.  Their hunger is not a sign of living, but of dying.

I think the first world needs the third world’s hunger, just as much as the third world needs our unwanted millet.

I sort of wish we ran out of soup Saturday and were forced to choose between an empty bowl and a fast lunch.  Who would have stayed in line, who would have fled, and why?  Is an empty bowl a symbol of despair or hope?  Life or death?

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