Today I’m participating in my first hOUR Economy time bank exchange.
I’m giddy with excitement about it, feeling like I’ve taken another giant leap away from the industrial economy. Not only that, I feel I’m taking a giant leap into the new economy that’s developing all around us.
These are exciting times.
Time is on our side, yes it is
If you’ve never heard of a time bank, let me tell you a bit about it. Basically it’s a community organization (there’s hundreds across the US and thousands across the world) that operates like a bank — you can make deposits, withdrawals, and transactions — but it’s entirely with hours of human endeavor, no money involved.
The basic premise from a transactional perspective is that every hour is equal. So, a one-hour visit to a participating veterinarian is equal to an hour of babysitting. An hour of Swedish massage is equal to an hour of digging weeds. An hour is equal to an hour, whatever happens within that hour.
On a deeper level the premise is about basic human worth beyond the alienating aspects of the money economy. The time exchange economy doesn’t seek to subvert or displace the money economy — obviously the money economy is still necessary and in many ways desirable.
But the new hours-based economy does seek to return to our world a sense of basic human worth, the affirmation of humanity and gifts and skills within each contributing member of the human family.
Time banks have been around since the 1980s, though they’re relatively new in most places. Still, they’ve had time to make an impact on their communities.
For example, time banks have been a savior to many folks who have lost jobs or had work scaled back, making it possible for them to still enjoy both necessities and luxuries even if cash is scarce. Moreover, time exchange has allowed them to remain engaged with their community, dignity intact, able to contribute and participate with worthy skills and offerings and to indulge in others’ skills and offerings.
Time is more valuable than money
But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a venue strictly for the unemployed. A time bank is a venue for anyone who wants to break free from the suffocating strictures of the money economy’s clear limits, limits that only allow you access to certain things if you have the disposable cash to acquire them.
In most instances today time banks are run online, off of a central database where members have profiles and they make offers of skills they have on the one hand and requests for things they’re seeking on the other.
For example, my Etsy shop takes a lot of time for me to run, between scouting goods, cleaning things, photographing and listing items, and mailing out my sales. So I put in a request to our time bank for photography, saying I was willing to “spend” two hours having someone else shoot my goods.
Today, the photographer is coming and voilá, I’m going to be freed from that task (I’m no photographer, trust me), allowing more time to write up product listings and manage the online magazine I edit, Transition Voice.
I’m also seeking help around the house — assembling shelves, repotting plants, prepping for and then serving at a party I’m having in December. These are tasks that have a high priority for me as far as wanting them done, but a low priority in terms of me making time for or devoting cash to them. But with the hOUR Economy, I can get those needs met.
Like most people these days, my checking account balance isn’t as high as I’d like and cash is tight every week. But I’ve already got hours in the time bank that I can spend. As one of the organizers of the effort in my city, I gained a number of hours building a website for the hOUR Economy, doing some graphic design, and participating in our local launch events.
You do have time
So if you’re feeling a longing to connect with others by offering them help and getting some help from them in return, why not seek out or start a time bank in your area?
Prosperity is about much more than cash. It’s a way of thinking. We are wealthy in friendships, neighbors, community, and our humanity, personal gifts, and individual initiative. Why not indulge in the riches?
–Lindsay Curren, Lindsay’s List