Fourth of July means many things to many people but to me, it means volunteering for the Oregon Food Bank. I help set up a Oregon Potter's Association booth at the Waterfront Blues Festival where donated pottery and glass is sold and 100% of the proceeds goes directly to the local food bank.
I donate over $100 of pottery I make as well. I volunteer 12-15 hours or more each year onsite during the 3-5 day festival. I stock shelves, put up displays and wrap up purchases. Yes, I also sell my ceramics for the last few days of the festival. But I lower my prices by 50%, as well as give another 25% from my sales directly to the food bank.
It's not about making money. It's about giving back.
You see, for years before I made bowls, cups, or vases, I bought them at the Empty Bowls Booth to benefit the Food Bank. Even when I was scared for my own family, I bought a bowl because I needed to hope.
I know what it's like to fear for basic survival. To wonder if I'd have enough to feed everyone in my home. When my husband was laid off a decade ago, we had two children living at home and going to college. We couldn't afford Cobra healthcare and have a roof over our heads and eat. We all worked part time jobs to keep us going. And still, we found a few dollars to buy a bowl at the OPA booth.
My husband bought a blue and black bowl that year. It wasn't very expensive, because it couldn't be. It wasn't big, either, just a cereal or soup bowl size. But I saw it as a symbol of hope.
I filled it with some pennies, added water and put it on the small table by the window. When I found a few blooming flowers in the garden, I added them too. And every day, when I walked by, I saw that the bowl wasn't empty but full. I saw it as a symbol that the void in our lives would be once again, filled. That we would all survive. That we would all be safe. That maybe, just maybe, we would even thrive.
A decade has passed since then and we've survived and thrived. It's not been an easy road, and it's continued to twist and turn, but in the big picture, we made it through. Jobs, graduations, opportunities allowed us all to move onward and upward. For that, I am very grateful.
On this 4th of July, I am once again in the OPA Empty Bowls booth. But in addition to buying a bowl to feed the hungry, I'm filling shelves with my own bowls to feed the hungry and my soul.
This is what makes America Great, not again, but always: the spirit of generosity in all of US.