Communities are incredibly powerful. They allow us to feel connected, to develop relationships with like-minded people, to share experiences , to work towards a common goal, to feel valued, and to be our most authentic selves. There are easily a hundred other reasons why community plays a vital role in our lives, but I think you get the point. When we are not part of a community, it’s easy to feel lost, alone and insecure.
I’ve been apart of a lot of different communities in my life. My earliest memory of community is what most people first think of when they hear the word community – your neighborhood. Back in early elementary school, my neighbors and I would all drop our bags off at our houses the second we hopped off the bus, grab our bikes and head out to meet in the cul-de-sac. We’d play for hours until our parents literally had to drag us in for dinner. When I look back on that time in my life, it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. No cell phones, no distractions – just pure, genuine connection and conversation with other human beings (okay granted, I can’t imagine our conversations had a lot of depth at age eight but still….) Of course since then, I’ve identified with a multitude of different communities – sports and dance teams, study groups, volunteer organizations, planning committees, workplaces, gym buddies – the list goes on. However, it wasn’t until I joined my Seattle neighborhood’s “Buy Nothing” group that I really began to notice the profound impact that community can have.
Buy Nothing is a Facebook group that enables people to give selflessly and to create a “sharing and caring” space. It allows people to both give and receive items at no cost. People can choose to give away clothes, appliances, furniture, electronics, food and jewelry – seriously the possibilities are endless. But perhaps what makes this community feel really special and different from any other community I’ve ever been apart of are the services and acts of kindness that people offer up. I have seen community members all pool in to provide diapers, clothes, and home cooked meals to a single mother who had just been laid off from her job. I have seen people donate their airline miles to a family whose son had an extremely rare disease so that they could fly him to see one of the best specialists in the country. I have seen people offer to help repair things around other’s houses, which helps save money, time and resources. One woman offered to write valentines day cards to each person who said they needed a little extra love around the romance-filled holiday (where my single ladies at)?! These are just a few of the many examples of kindness I have witnessed. It goes to show that people, just bound together by the same geographic location, can be so generous to complete strangers, without expecting anything in return. Now, this is what community is all about.
The Valentine’s Day card I received from Kenya, a woman in my Buy Nothing group. Feeling loved 🙂
It’s funny. As I was writing this blog post, I was looking for some hard data to see how widespread these groups actually are, because you know, people trust numbers. And just now, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw an article that was published about Buy Nothing that featured the various volunteer administrators in the greater Seattle area. It turns out that there are 290,000 members in 2,300 Buy Nothing groups across every state in the country as well as groups in 18 additional countries. I almost choked on my smoothie when I saw those numbers because it reaffirms that THERE IS SO MUCH GOOD IN THIS WORLD! But the harsh reality is, we still have a long way to go to shift our society’s obsession of consuming, consuming and consuming to one that values giving.
These Buy Nothing groups set the precedent for the type of world I want to live in and the type of world I want my kids to grow up in. One where you can be transparent about your challenges and struggles, one where people are kind and genuinely supportive of others, and one where the emphasis is not on consuming but about giving selflessly.
If you don’t have a Buy Nothing group in your community, take the initative to start one. Visit www.buynothingproject.org and be the change you wish to see in the world 🙂