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In my old(er) age I have learned a few things, as most tend to do. Modern fads and the latest and greatests' that are thrown in my face tend to run off leaving very little leftover. I find myself wondering, why is it I am so willing to eat out more often than I am to cook for my wife and I? How is it I am lacking in one of the oldest art forms in the world? Or, I am in need of professional help with "fill in the blank"; let me call a service that will assist.
If you tend to look at the popular trends, there are companies and services for almost anything at a slew of different costs. Very convenient, just exchange some coin and voila. It starts to look like a community of people who are professional money spenders, which is intrinsically a solo act. A blissful arrangement for entrepreneurs and money enthusiasts.
I'd like to entice you with a different means of acquiring services and knowledge. It is called Time Banking. Time Banks redefine assets, reboots the idea of community and reciprocity, and gives a fresh coat of awesome to social networking (social networking before it became popular to connect with people without physically connecting to them).
Consider this. The act of procuring goods and services with hard money is nothing new. But what is new is that, most will consider calling a business to schedule a service or look to socially normalized outlets to buy their wants or needs before looking to their community. What Time-banking does is allow you, as an account-holder, to keep your money in your pockets, instead using your own talents and time to earn time credits, which, unlike money, is meant to be used and "spent" to keep the community alive and well. Instead of money being the asset, you are the asset.
To play out a likely scenario, someone's television takes a dive off of the entertainment center after their kids are wrestling around in a fit of youthful joy and, smash, t.v. is broken. You have a couple options, tinker with it yourself, take it to a repair shop the next day, or toss it in the trash and get a new one. But wait, there is another solution. You noticed in a Time Bank newsletter there is a gentleman who worked with electronics doing repair and such, only costs a single time credit. Fortunately, you helped your neighbor, also a TimeBank account holder, with some manual labor a couple weeks ago and earned a couple credits. Solution that costs nothing except the time you put in helping your neighbor. People are the asset. Your professional trade is the asset.
This is one of a myriad of exchanges possible because it's based on people and their trade, not what money can buy in your specific area.
Using a time-for-time reciprocal approach is great because it crops out the need for money but that is only a small portion of the potential of such an aspiring system. This is a system that benefits from human interaction. This human interaction builds community through commitment and respect. Time-banking allows people to help each other out and both get something out of it. The experience is not a solitary exchange of pressed paper pulp or the handling of a plastic card through a machine. And, if I may quote TimeBanks.org's mission statement, it redefines the question from:
How can I help you?-to-
How can we help each other build the world we both live in?
My wife and I have benefited from the Wellington Time Bank in that, we both learned how to sew, from people who have been sewing for decades. We wanted to learn how to create floor pillows and we did. Now we know forever. I spent an hour credit for that experience but look forward to helping others with anything computer or graphics related, that being my trade, but I also have the physique of an ox, so I'm happy to sweat a bit working in someone's yard as well.
There may be those who are not interested in donating time and their trade may not specifically be applicable and ultimately would rather spend money on goods and services and that is ok. It is still noteworthy, to mention the merits and possibilities that are already sprouting up all over the world. from Washington, D.C. to New Zealand.
It all boils down to spending time and energy into your job making the money to give to others or spending some of that time providing and acquiring new skills, services, and goods while cultivating rich relationships with the people you share space with. For my wife and I, it's an easy choice. We choose to participate in a new way of banking that chooses people and their skills over companies, community and relationship building over solo shopping experiences.