The Big Give

I’m not really a garage sale sort of person.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate a bargain, but driving from place to place looking for one doesn’t appeal to me. It seems too much like work.

I know there are people for whom garage sales are a major hobby. They are up at the crack of dawn most weekend mornings with their route already plotted, off in search of serious bargains.

Twenty years ago, when my children were much younger, I would at least stop and look if I passed by a garage or yard sale. There were a few toys that I knew the lids would like that were no longer being made. The only way to get them a Fisher-Price castle was going to be if I found one someone no longer had use for. But even back then it wasn’t a process I enjoyed. I have never checked out the Great Glebe Garage Sale, where the people of one of Ottawa’s more upscale neighbourhoods collectively sell off their unwanted junque.


This castle is in my mind the best thing Fisher Price ever made. It has secret passages and great play potential.

So why am I going to spend my Saturday morning this week at a yard sale? Mostly because it isn’t a sale, it is The Big Give.

My church, Cedarview Alliance, first took part in this event last year. It looks like a yard sale, but there’s one huge difference. There is no money involved. All the material on display ‎is given away. Not only that, but volunteers will deliver it for you. Which is handy if you want an item like the 100 pound desk we donated last year.

The Big Give is an opportunity for the church to bless the community. There’s an added benefit of allowing church members to de-clutter a little. And while our church is in a middle class suburb, there are still many people in the neighbourhood who can make good use of the clothing, toys, furniture and whatever else is up for grabs.

My wife and daughter ‎will be volunteering at one of the clothing tables. They did that last year and really enjoyed it. People are so appreciative – and quite surprised that everything is free. The sign outside the church says free, but who reads signs?

There’s also bouncy games for the children to keep them busy while the parents “shop,” face painting (I think) and free food. That’s where I come in.

As an introvert I’m not overjoyed at the idea of spending four hours meeting new people, but I do want to be involved in the Big Give and do my part for the community. So I volunteered for the BBQ team. I’ll spend the time cooking hot dogs over the grill and won’t have to interact with as many people.

That’s the theory anyway. Who knows, I may be so overcome by the experience and all the happy people that I go help give books away, or something like that. Well, it’s a possibility.

We live in a world where “free” usually comes with some sort of strings attached. Not in this case. The people of Cedarview (and the other 64 congregations  in Ottawa that are also hosting the event at their churches), would be delighted if anyone from the community decided to ask more about why the church does this sort of thing.  That would give an opportunity to tell about God’s love and what it can mean for a society in which far too many people are lonely.

But there’s no requirement to ask, and I suspect most people won’t. They’ll take the free hot dog, along with whatever else has caught their fancy. They’ll come back next year for the same event.

And that’s okay. At least they will know where the church is. While they may not feel a spiritual need right now, you never know about the future. The church will be there when needed. That’s why it exists.


  1. […] I took part in The Big Give, but I have been waffling about telling you all about it. I did mention earlier than I wanted to participate in this free garage sale that was being held at 65 Ottawa churches, […]

  2. Nicely written

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