Seeing all the people there staring in awe at all the hand-made bowls was incredible. Although many had heard about or attended the event, they were all still so amazed at how the community had helped to create all these bowls. It hit me that the event hasn’t stopped. We should always be using our talents for good, not just for one event or instance but during our entire lives – because true happiness is shared and best felt when you help others and use talents to their utmost potential.
That’s from my student Dan‘s blog post, at the end of last year’s Empty Bowls event. He’s a pretty special kid, but I don’t think he was just speaking for himself. We all felt this way last winter, after presenting 969 bowls and donating over $11,000 to Bethesda Project. The 2013 Empty Bowls dinner that we hosted was the fifth one at my current school, and the ninth one I’ve helped to organize. It was a special night, culminating over six months of work, mountains of challenges, and some incredible highlights.
Sometimes in winter, I’ll pause outside the gallery where we display the bowls in the months leading up to the dinner. It’s usually far after dark, light no longer streaming through the gallery windows, but overhead tracks glint on the bowl rims. It’s hard to believe that I handle each one of these pots at least four times – load, unload, load, unload – sometimes add another three touches to pack, unpack, move. (Funny, I hadn’t considered the similarity to an article cited by my school’s leadership this year about the ‘seven touches’ that spread good ideas. File that for another post.)
I try not to think about it too much, but coordinating Empty Bowls involves at least a hundred hours of dedicated time. The entire process is extracurricular – over and above my workload and compensated responsibilities as a teacher. When I do consider this, I’ll rub my back or my head, whichever is hurting more. I’ll tell myself that I’m getting too old for all of this. I’ll laugh to myself, crack a joke to keep myself going.
What I love about Dan’s quote is that I think he got what the event is really supposed to be about. Each of the hours, each of the ‘touches’ can feel like a mountain when you’re preparing over six months, trying to invest student leadership and ownership, competing with priorities and with yourself. But when you notice the students and stakeholders grab on to the responsibility to use our talents for a good bigger than ourselves – “not just for one event or instance but during our entire lives” – that’s the energy that keeps everything going. Our donation to Bethesda Project each year is just a drop in the bucket of what it takes to keep their important organization going. But the talent-and-responsibility stuff? That’s the long-term, the catalyst that takes on a life of its own.
Writing this post today is a personal nudge. The 2013 Empty Bowls was one of my highlights of the last year – but that was almost a year ago. According to the countdown on our website, the 2014 event is now less than a month away – and boy, do we have a lot to do. There’s no time for new year malaise, or senioritis, or headaches. We’ve got auction donations to finalize, volunteers to coordinate, tickets to sell, mountains to move.
I can’t wait.