Last summer, I wiped out my entire collection of blogs in response to someone who accused me of using a tragedy in our community to gain attention. At the time, I felt certain I would no longer blog here. Now I realize it was an overreaction to an emotional situation, and the person was out of line for suggesting such a thing.
Sending three years of ideas, creativity and innovation into the cyber graveyard was tough on me, and it's made me not want to blog my usual fare of community outreach, sustainability, arts, and life in general topics for a long time.
Today, I'm getting back on the horse, as it were. While I was an avid rider as a child, as my grandparents always had horses and were often awarded "Oldest Couple" trophies for their trail rides, I've actually not ridden a horse since I was a teenager. If anyone cares to help me remedy that, perhaps when the weather is a bit better, I would make it worth your while with whatever it is I have to offer.
Hm...would that be...a barter arrangement?
I've been nudged to start a barter/time dollar system here in Spencer and the Lakes for over five years now. The entire time my family and I have occupied the Wonder Whip in Fostoria where the extra lot cries out for a community garden, the front room aches to be a place of long tables, fabulous food and memorable dinner parties, and the fire pit out back could accommodate guests and fabulousness if we just had more places to sit -- I have felt compelled to start this.
First, what are we talking about?
Time Dollars: the plan would be to start a time dollar system through Time Banks USA. For $65, a startup time bank is provided with Community Weaver software (developed by their experts on Drupal) to track everyone's time exchanges, plus access to ongoing training for the core leaders through webinars and in-person seminars.
Here's how Time Banks USA explains their mission:
TimeBanks are at the center of a dynamic movement to preserve families, rebuild communities, affect systemic change, and promote transformation around the world. We are committed to building a TimeBanks movement worldwide. Currently, as far as we know, there are over 300 TimeBanks around the world and in over 36 countries. By becoming a TimeBanks Network Affiliate your TimeBank will be connected to a learning community of TimeBanks worldwide.
Time Banks USA is an "inclusive exchange of time and talent." One hour of time = one time dollar. Yes, it does mean everyone's time has equal worth. But is that not true anyway -- that an hour of your life is as precious as mine, and as that of the person over there?
Time banks track hours on the Community Weaver software and any member can log in to track their hours. Unlike barter, it's not reciprocal. I spend an hour shoveling your snow, and I earn a time dollar which I use for an hour of Joe's time tilling my garden. Joe and his wife use two time dollars to have a date night, paying them to my daughter for babysitting their children. My daughter uses the time dollars for guitar lessons from Ben, who pays them to Alice for math tutoring. Alice pays them to Lisa to do her hair for a special event. Lisa pays Troy to look at the brakes on her car. Troy pays them to Rachel for some jars of applesauce she put up last fall.
Jars of applesauce? Yum!
That's where I'm considering that we may need to also add straight barter to the mix. There are many products from spaghetti sauce that won the blue ribbon at the Clay County Fair, to knitted and crocheted warm things, to gently used furniture, to benches for my fire pit, that I would love to acquire from talented individuals in our region.
Sadly, I don't make anything worth the exchange. My mother was very crafty -- she did tole painting, cross-stitch and needlepoint among other things. If she was alive today, she could make a fortune doing decorative painting -- she made murals and borders on the walls of my childhood home, before it was trendy and called decorative painting.
I've looked at needlepoint before and determined that I'd injure myself and others if I tried. I'm just not very coordinated. And with my job search, business launch, and other things, I probably don't have time to make anything. Sure, I'll edit or ghostwrite your memoir or other book, work on your resume or write your Christmas letter, but in the big picture, there's little I can offer that would be particularly popular.
There must be some way to exchange time for goods as well.
No, you don't have to be unemployed
Time dollars can greatly increase anyone's participation in the local economy, whether your money is going to a medical bill or other debt, or you're underemployed in our service-sector economy.
Time dollar systems eliminate the "takers" that supposedly exist in our community. "How can I help you?" becomes "How can we help each other build the world we will both live in?"
We need each other
For those of you who have some dim memory of the blogs I once wrote in this space, the unifying theme of all was: We need each other.
We're living in a suicide economy, but we don't have to go down with it. Donald Trump is now telling us to prepare for financial ruin. Thanks, The Donald. You're fired.
No one has to be completely ruined. No one has to look at the world and say it's no longer workable. We can't consume things and insulate ourselves like we've become accustomed to doing.
We need each other, and we need everyone. Each human being matters.
Respect underlies freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and everything we value. Respect supplies the heart and soul of democracy. When respect is denied to anyone, we all are injured. We must respect where people are in the moment, not where we hope they will be at some future point. ~ Time Banks USA
In some places, this is big.
In some places, time dollars are exchanged for medical care, for a large portion of a family's food, for solar panel creation and installation, and eventually for shelter.
Blue Zones is trying to make us a healthy community. Fruits and vegetables are great. What if we can do even more?