For a couple years now, I have been pounding away at the idea that we need to increase our resilience as a community in order to ride out the chaotic economic and political future that we are likely to be heading into. Irregardless of what will happen, it is still good to do. The characteristics that lead to resilience are a high degree of interaction and identification within the community, the ability to source much of the goods and services we need from within the community, and maximum utilization of the skills, knowledge, and resources available in the community.
We all know that we have about 20 organizations on the island that are working on parts of this and that about 50 people seem to be keeping all of them afloat. If you are not among those 50, it is probably because you don’t want to spend your life in meetings.
We have yet another organization soon to be launched, but this one seems to be mainly focused on getting things done. Although we have to attend at least one meeting to learn how it works, the rest of our participation will be in taking advantage of each other’s expertise in getting what we each need. At the same time, it builds resilience in all the ways mentioned above.
What I’m talking about is timebanking, a system in which each individual gives of their time and expertise in exchange for someone else’s. It is like what happens in a close neighborhood only systematized and operated on a much larger scale. I know that we had a timebank on the island some years ago. Among the reasons that it failed, I think, are that the accounting of transactions was labor intensive, and there was a limited sense of what a viable transaction could be. The new system promoted by Timebanks of Puget Sound relies on a computer program that needs little supervision.
The basic philosophy of the new system is laid out in a book, No Throwaway People, by Edgar Cahn. The basic principles are:
• We are all assets. Ninety percent of what you do never shows up on a resume. Even something as simple as providing company while sharing a task can mean a lot for somebody’s quality of life.
• Some work is valuable beyond price – and that work needs to be recognized and rewarded. Existing community services can be plugged into the timebank and earn credits.
• Helping works better as a two way street. Giving is easy, but it is receiving that honors the value of others and builds real community. You create value by accepting the service of others. Giving back builds the self-esteem of the receiver.
• We need each other. We need to underscore that fact.
• Every human being matters. We all have a finite time to live and an hour of lifetime is equally valuable no matter how it is used or how much training and experience went into what is provided. You might think that a lawyer would feel that an hour of their time is worth much more than an hour of a gardener. That lawyer could decide to offer some other service if they wanted to earn time to bring in a gardener. On the other hand, I think that a lawyer might get a lot more satisfaction offering legal services because it is something they are good at and proud of. We have already heard from one lawyer that is enthusiastic about the idea. When we take money out of the transaction, it becomes a much more personal and bonding, not alienating.
Transition Vashon has long wanted to do a skills inventory of our community. As participation in the timebank grows, we will be creating that inventory. At the same time, we will have a way in which those skills will be accessible to everybody.
The exchange includes only time; if there are material costs involved, the recipient must pay those. You can explore the details at www.tbanks.org/member-policies/. If you are not computer savvy, call Carrie Sikorski at 206 949 2790 or show up at the following meeting.
The Vashon Timebank Launch and orientation potluck will be Sunday, Sept 15, 4pm, at the Senior Center, next to the Land Trust Bldg in town. Our timebank will be a part of a larger regional timebank in which you will be able to participate. Joan Eads, of Timebanks of Puget Sound, will be there to answer your questions. You will receive an hour credit just for attending the meeting! This is your chance to shine at what you do best, and get the help you need, while starting to build an alternative to the money economy. If you sit down and think about what you know how to do, you will be surprised at how much you have to offer. It could be fun and a radical step forward if we so choose.