A few weeks ago, I found a brightly colored flier in my mailbox. This is nothing remarkable. I thought it was either the Chinese restaurant about a mile up the road delivering their menu to me again or the Curb Appeal paint company trying to convince me that my house needed painting. When I read it, however, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my neighborhood was launching a time bank. And one may be coming to a neighborhood near you.
Time banks are forming in more communities around the country. Members recognize the value and the positive impact that a time bank can have on their lives as well as their neighbors’. It’s a real win-win for everyone who participates. Here’s how it works: Every hour of service that a member gives can be reciprocated for another service. For instance, let’s say that I help someone determine how much money they’ll need to retire. I now have one hour of service “deposited” in the time bank. I can “withdraw” my hour when I need a service, like having my dogs walked. Note: no monetary value is ever placed on any service, and any member can reciprocate, earning credits in their account.
Like karma yoga, time banking requires honorable action now to produce excellent results later. It’s the law of cause and effect, and the effects of time banking pay meaningful and unconventional dividends. Time banking, for example, cultivates community. Participants get to know people in their neighborhood that, otherwise, they may have had no interaction with previously. Also, time banking encourages its members to share talents. This is especially beneficial for the elderly who may not have big cash flows but can still positively contribute to society. For instance, a retiree may not have the resources for landscaping, but with the time bank hours she’s accrued through teaching a foreign language or giving piano lessons, she can “withdraw” credits for lawn care. Moreover, time banking can even foster a return to intergenerational interactions. Most importantly, though, the benefits of time banking stay in the community and don’t flow into the hands of profiteers.
Much like Yogic Investing, time banking is investing in one’s self for the greater good. To join or start a time bank, visit timebanks.org. This is the website of TimeBanks USA which is considered the leading authority of this innovative service exchange.