He wanted to do something beautiful for his dying wife. The Buy Nothing Project delivered.

People join for the free stuff, but they stay for the community.

He wanted something beautiful to welcome his dying wife home for the last time.

When the man, who will remain anonymous by request, thought about bringing his dying wife home from the hospital, he wished for something beautiful there to greet her.

Hospital bills are pricey and he knew he couldn't afford to bring his dream to life. So, unable to make it happen himself, he posted his wish to a Facebook group in his local community.


And lo and behold, when the man and his wife pulled into their driveway, they were shocked and delighted to find that their neighbors had filled the porch with hundreds and hundreds of beautiful flower bouquets.

This photo, provided by the Buy Nothing Project, shows just a few of the bouquets that began showing up on the man's porch the day he brought his wife home.

The Facebook group that the man posted to? It's called the Buy Nothing Project. And it's so much bigger than just random acts of kindness and generosity.

Buy Nothing Project co-founder Rebecca Rockefeller says that the idea for the group originally started two years ago with something really simple: a bunch of green beans.

Rockefeller had a small yard with lots of shade, and was frustrated to find that the only thing her garden would grow was green beans. So she turned to her friend (and BNP co-founder) Liesl Clark, who offered to toss some of her own vegetables into a communal basket.

Soon other friends were pitching in, too. They traded bread for eggs, and vegetables for milk. But Rockefeller wanted to take it one step beyond trading. "I remember thinking: What if we did this not as a trade, but as a thing where literally anyone who comes to the local park can just grab what they need from a big table?" That was two years ago.

Today, the Buy Nothing Project is a worldwide social experiment — all about giving.

There are more than 1,000 Buy Nothing Project Facebook groups where 500,000 people offer up goods and services to their neighbors, all for free.

In this photo, a group of high schoolers joins a psychologist in a group bonding activity. The psychologist volunteered her time, through the Buy Nothing Project, to talk about difficult issues with the students. Photo via Liesl Clark.

Through the Buy Nothing Project, no money changes hands and people don't barter or trade.

Instead, they just give away things they don't need or services and skills they can offer.

"I remember thinking: What if we did this not as a trade, but as a thing where literally anyone who comes to the local park can just grab what they need from a big table?" — Rebecca Rockefeller

As Clark writes on the group's website, "[The Buy Nothing Project is] a Facebook group that'll give you a hands-on chance to take part in a social movement spreading across the country, enabling people and communities to commit episodic acts of daily good together."

Rockefeller says that people come to the Buy Nothing Project because of the free stuff ... at first.

"Let's be perfectly honest: Who doesn't like free stuff?" Rockefeller tells Upworthy, laughing. "They join because of the stuff. But then they stay because of the gratitude."

The Buy Nothing Project defines "giving" in broad terms and sees generosity in many forms. "It could be dinner, a class, even tree trimming," Rockefeller says.

Sometimes people give small things, like a salad dressing they bought but hated or a screw they found that doesn't fit with anything in their house. Maybe their neighbor wants the salad dressing! Or a friend might just happen to have a dresser that's missing a screw!

Sometimes people give big things, like this BNP group that came together to give a couple a wedding where almost every item came from their neighbors (for free!).

Yep, a free wedding! I know, I know. It's a thing of dreams. Photo via Buy Nothing Project.

Through BNP, people offer to teach new skills, like this local master chef who taught her neighbors to make a delicious meal.

Buy Nothing Project members take photos of the meal they prepared with the master chef in their community. Photo via Liesl Clark.

And people request acts of kindness, like this BNP member who asked for 100 birthday cards for their grandfather's 100th birthday.

"On January 13, 2015, my grandpa advances to the age of 100, and joins the centenarian club :') WOW! I'm borrowing an idea from my friend to get 100 cards to him before his birthday," a Buy Nothing Project member wrote. Photo via Buy Nothing Project Facebook page, used with permission.


Sometimes, the idea of giving is even a little more abstract and intangible, like a BNP group who enjoyed an hour of free ukulele music in Seattle.

Who doesn't love a good ukulele session? Photo via the Buy Nothing Project.

So what can we learn from the magic that is the Buy Nothing Project?

"Philosophically, we want to get people thinking differently about our stuff and our time and what we do with it," Rockefeller says.

She hopes people can learn to look at material goods as collective resources that can be shared when communities come together, rather than as commodities.

As Rockefeller explains it, this kind of communal sharing can only happen when people stop attaching their self-worth to what they own and start identifying instead with how well they give to their communities.

"To us, this whole thing is an experiment," she says. "We're watching it unfold and learning a lot about human behavior."

The biggest lesson so far? Whether it's salad dressing or flowers for a dying woman, giving can make us feel a lot more connected than receiving.

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I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

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WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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