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Friday, May 07, 2004

Magic happened. I stopped moderating posts to our Freecycle. You still have to be a member, but anyone can post.

The immediacy that added to the experience seemed to add a healthy dimension. Posts began to appear more quickly.

It is true that some "chatty" messages appeared. Had they been moderated posts, I'm sure I would have deleted them and not allowed them to appear on the list. But the group had decided they didn't want moderated posts so we're experimenting with this format for now, with the understanding that if we have to we'll reinstitute moderated posts.

Then I found myself laughing.

I have this theory that you can't have community without humor. The group started postingi "Freecycling Funnies." Humor about personal freecycling experiences. "I asked my husband if he had anything to give away -- he said 40lbs," one member said. Apparently it was a true story.

Fortunately the people posting the funnies are the most frequent participants in both giving and taking. Now, isn't that interesting?

The quality of items being offered is astounding. A set of encyclopedias. Someone took it for their kids' school that couldn't afford a set. One woman is cleaning out her attic and posting OFFERS sometimes 2 or 3 times a day. NICE offers. Like a new and unused diaper bag.

Now, if only we could figure out how to engage people who are truly destitute. Some groups propose requiring someone to offer to give away something for free before they are allowed to take something someone else offers.

That's not what I envisioned. I saw (or hallucinated) truly needy individuals going to the public library and using a computer for free to log in to Freecycle and participate. People who truly have nothing to buy, bargain or trade with and certainly nothing to give away.

I remember an interview with Carolyn Chute ("Beans of Egypt Maine") discussing the Working Poor experience. She was talking about how you don't know how poor the person next door might be; you don't know when the person next door is living on boiled onions because that is all they have to eat. They might have a house. They might say hello and try to act like things are okay. But they are not likely to tell you they are living on boiled onions.

j

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Freecycling has been so brisk I turned off the moderated message feature. This is an impressively mature group. I've never personally seen such good netiquette.

They are also a committed group to the Freecycling concept. I asked if there were volunteers willing to help promote the local site. One member responded that she had already printed 50 copies of a flyer I had made and stored onsite and distributed them on her own -- and has plans to do something similar at least twice in the next month or so.

I've never met this person. Apparently she makes yard art from discarded items and sells them at rummage sales.

Two people posted a WANTED request for old windows and doors. While we discourage using the list for discussion, I am glad they let us all eavesdrop. They realized they were looking for the same item -- but in different sizes. They agreed to keep each other in mind while they are Curb Cruising.

Tried to find the first use of the term Curb Cruising. Difficult to do. Google turns up all kinds of references "to curb cruising" -- as in stopping cruising. Not at all the same thing. I did, however, learn another new word: "junking." Hadn't heard that one before.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Freecycle tends to reflect society in the same way our possessions do. Someone asked if there was a pharmacy or hospital in the area that accepted unfinished prescriptions as donations. It was a well-intentioned offer given the high cost of prescription drugs.

It has nothing to do with irresponsible use of prescriptions. It has to do with what to do with scrips left over -- under doctor's orders.

I have some myself. I was on an antibiotic last autumn and was hoping to get over my ailment. Instead I found myself spending an entire night in the emergency room before I was stabilized -- and sent home with a different antibiotic and instructions not to finish the original.

So ... what DO you do with the remaining meds? Everyone says to flush them down the toilet, but I have to wonder if anyone has ever studied the impact of that on water quality. Probably dilutes enough to be irrelevant but .... I can't help but wonder.

I have been inundated with stories about people being fired for having another person's prescription on them.... on and on and on..... Stories about fear of contaminated meds. Stories about Good Samaritan laws protecting such donations; adamant warnings about committing felonies by passing on meds.... Warnings against giving away contact lenses and eyeglasses....

I'm a little surprised at the furor. Probably shouldn't be though. My own insurance coverage is in jeopardy -- and I'm covered by the State of Illinois employee/retiree coverage. Lots of people are without insurance altogether. Even if they find a physician or clinic, they can't afford the medication prescribed for them.

I don't advocate not finishing prescriptions and I don't advocate sharing them.

But I was touched by the compassion of the person who offered the meds. Her heart is in the right place and cost of prescriptions is not.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

One of the freecyclers took the white oak trees I offered and used them to help rebuild some of the area hit by the recent tornado near Utica. Another member is passing the word via the internet that we're willing to help if we can.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Made my first official local Freecycle exchange today. I offered an unlimited number of live white oak trees. A homeschool mom brought her 4 kids over to pick up the first 17 I had potted up. She took a few more she and the kids dug themselves.

The kids learned to identify the ankle-high oaks. They learned to dig up the roots and move the sapling-ettes. They learned to recycle. They learned about the lifecycle of an oak tree from the little acorns to the ones that had taken root to the giant Mother oak tree they all came from.

What a great experience! They are going to use the trees to landscape their three-acre lawn.

This Freecycle thing is intriguing. In less than a month, 56 members have joined. Finally have enough members to start doing some exchanges. I wonder if there is a median point for exchanges to begin? When there was just 11 of us, the chances of a truly diverse group having things to exchange was pretty slim. As in nothin' happened.

So far, the local project has cost nothing more than a few emails. The local East Peoria Times-Courier did a splendid interview. The rest has been word of mouth.

j
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