What Does a Carnival Have to Do with Meeting Basic Needs
May 9th, 2011
Nothing, I guess. The basic need for food can be provided by shoving a box preloaded with leftovers to someone; or a bowl of rice and beans handed out as a meal to a hungry villager; maybe even a crust of stale bread and watery gruel. Enough of that will fill the stomach (though it really does little to nourish either body or soul).
That’s why at United Church Outreach Ministry (UCOM) we intend to offer a friendly smile, a welcoming environment and a wide variety of nourishing food that our neighbors pick out for themselves from attractive and well-stocked shelves.
…and that’s why we do a carnival once a year. We are in the business of providing nourishment for bodies, minds and spirits.
Why invest the time and energy to sponsor a carnival for our community
It’s fun! OK, our staff and volunteers really enjoy our work, and part of the fun of what we do is seeing smiles replace tears because of the services we provide. What joy then for a few hours a year to watch kids laughing and squealing in the bouncy house; to see them stepping lively to a catchy tune anticipating winning a cake in our cake walk! It would be worth our investment of planning time and working on Saturday just to see the little ones giggling over their success and prizes at the duck pond. There’s nothing like watching a line of patient youngsters waiting for our clown to fashion a balloon hat or animal for them. It’s like being a child again; being parents of a toddler; and enjoying our grandchildren all at once. Actually I think fun is a good reason for doing some things—like a carnival.
It offers some dignity. Self-respect is a very big need. How do you get and keep a job, form or maintain a relationship, or look yourself in the face in the mirror in the mornings without a sense of self-worth. The dignity that is offered by being able to do the same kinds of things that others with more economic security than you can do is worth a lot. The opportunity to give back to an organization like UCOM that provides for you during the hard times and does so leaving your dignity intact is paramount. This is part of the reason so many of our neighbors volunteer time to UCOM to help their community. They are not looking for a handout, but a way to provide for themselves and their families. UCOM’s carnival may well be one of the few places you can purchase a freshly grilled hot dog or kielbasa on a bun with pop and chips for 25 cents; but that’s what it costs at our carnival whether you are very wealthy or extremely poor financially. Carnivals are great levelers!
It gives parents a chance to give something to their children. It took becoming a parent (and now a grandparent) for me to realize that my mom and dad really did enjoy spending very hard-earned money on something frivolous for their five children. UCOM’s carnival offers parents a chance to show their children a good time without breaking the bank. A dollar or two provides an afternoon’s entertainment and lunch for the whole family; not to mention cotton candy, popcorn and other fun snacks. The parents have smiles as big as the kids.
It provides an opportunity for people with more and less resources to play together. Kids from East Grand Rapids and Ada come out to the carnival to play with our neighborhood kids, and nobody can tell who’s who without a scorecard. Fairway friendships develop quickly and sometimes blossom into lasting relationships as barriers of language, color, shapes and personalities get swallowed up in having fun together.
It widens horizons for everyone. People of all ages recognize that we are really one flesh, one heart, when we drop the superficial and giggle or belly laugh or cry and get serious together.
You know, the carnival may supply a need that goes deeper than the basic needs for food, clothing and shelter. It may go right to the heart of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.
UCOM’s 4th Annual Community Carnival is Saturday, May 14 from 11a to 2p. Look for more information here: www.UCOMgr.org.