Simply Show Up (The Empty Bowls article)

“February 2nd is Groundhog Day. A furry little fellow comes out to play. He sees his shadow and runs away. “Six more weeks of winter,” they say.”

I can’t remember high school algebra, my kids’ first words, or my own blood type, but for some reason I can remember that Groundhog Day rap my elementary school friends and I created over twenty years ago. Many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Our brains are so strange and selective when it comes to longterm memory storage. 

Like a string tied around a finger, some of us really need a physical object to help remind us of daily tasks or important projects. On March 1st, one of our annual events serves as a one of those special reminders.

Since 1990, Empty Bowls has served as an “international grassroots effort to raise both money and awareness in the fight to end hunger.” At our event, you get to enjoy some amazing soups from The Vintage Press in a handcrafted bowl crafted by local artists. Long after the event has come and gone, this bowl stays with you, as a reminder of all of the empty bowls in the world.

To be honest, I didn’t totally understand the premise initially. 

“You want me to eat a bunch amazing food so that I remember the hungry people of the world? Shouldn’t we just feed the hungry people?” 

But my reaction was incredibly nearsighted. This event is just a catalyst, a means to help a community catch the cold of compassion. Growing up, I remember being told to eat all of my food because there were hungry kids in the world. Unfortunately, that didn’t help those kids to be any less hungry, and it just made me bloated and feel guilty. But in this day and age, there are many easy ways to do something about the need that exists. 

In 2015, Visalia Rescue Mission served over 105,000 meals. In 2014, we received over $563,000 worth of donated food. These numbers reveal an incredibly generous community. It also shows that the problems we encounter aren’t due to a lack of resources, but more typically, are due to a lack of response. 

Respond with us by attending Empty Bowls on Tuesday, March 1. Enjoy the food, the company, and the bowls knowing that together we are making a difference, simply because we showed up.


Ryan Stillwater

Ryan is a longtime Visalian — a graduate of Redwood High School and Fresno Pacific University with a bachelors degree in Christian Ministries. Intrigued by the partnership between the Visalia Rescue Mission and the City of Visalia, Ryan began putting his vision on paper as VRM's Oval Venue Coordinator in August 2013, and has sparked the interest of many throughout the community. Ryan and his wife Amy (a Mt. Whitney High School graduate) have been married for seven years and have three amazing kids — ages 6, 4, and 4.