Disability Concerns, Community Engagement
On The Big Give and Ableism
February 27, 2023
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The Big Give is a Canada-wide event that churches can choose to participate in or not. The purpose is to bless our communities by offering services or items that people can take home free of charge.
Our congregation, the Montreal CRC, began its participation before Covid-19 struck. The first year there were tents on the church lawn where household and clothing items were offered to the community. People could also stay for coffee, tea, and baked goods. But then there was Covid-19 and people had to avoid contact, so the organizers for our congregation decided to hold car washes, and they have done that for a number of years (including last year).
The problem with a car wash is that it's an ableist activity in that only the young or able-bodied people can participate, and people with disabilities are excluded because there are no alternative activities for them to give to the community. I’m sure the organizers haven’t thought of the negative impact on the rest of the congregation because unless something affects you directly, you aren't aware of it. Nevertheless, I sent an email to one of our church’s organizers earlier today asking her what was planned for The Big Give, and to please tell me that it wouldn't only be car washes.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no objections to a car wash being one of the services offered, as long as it’s not the ONLY one. I also told her that I feel excluded when a car wash is the only service offered (because I don’t have the energy to do that, and if there is nothing else I can do then I feel useless). I’m sure I’m not the only one to feel this way.
People who plan for and organize The Big Give should make sure they plan activities in which all the members of their congregation can participate in one way or another, so as to avoid sending the message that unless you can provide the service that is planned for that day, you may as well stay home because the church has no use for you.
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