Thursday, January 23, 2014

I Love Our Timebank!: Nourishing Networks of Community Support

what I've given:
Red Wriggler worms for worm-bin composting, some of my
Dandelioness Herbals products, and I gave my opinion.

what I've received:

Life coaching, Massage (unfortunately my massage didn't involve any snakes,
but it was still really good), and installation of my bike basket and mud guards
 (bicycling according to José Guadalupe Posada).

Okay, there aren't many things that I like to testify about. Timebanking and Uterine/ abdominal massage are the big exceptions.  (More on the uterine/abdominal massage another time!)  I love the Timebank.  OUR Timebank. I love offering services and receiving services, and I feel really good about the exchanges.  

I had a spell of time that was particularly chock-full of fabulous Timebank exchanges. I met with a lifecoach at the perfect time to help me realize where I wanted to focus my energy, I met with another timebank member at Freeride Montpelier Community Bikeshop, who put on my mud guards and basket so I could be less car-dependent and more bike-fabulous, a computer/graphics maven member shared their fonts and Word expertise to help me learn skills to create zines, handouts, pamphlets, etc., and I received a massage where a warm compress of lavender water was placed on my back to relieve muscle tension!

During this same time period, I made a large amount of herbal Iron Syrup for a friend, a member attended my Herbals Salves for Social Justice workshop, and I sent a care package of tinctures and salves across the country to a member who had moved away and wanted to use up the rest of their remaining community credits to receive herbal products. I've become the personal herbalist of a friend who orders shampoo, bath salts, and body scrubs for herself and as gifts for family and friends, using Timebank community credits. I've also received credits for sharing worms (for Vermicompost) and kombucha mamas, filling out a survey for the Timebank, recruiting new members, and redirecting stuff from my workplace that would've gone into the trash or recycling, but instead went to the ReSOURCE (formally the Restore) and was transformed into art!

Giving and receiving hours.

In a culture that thrives off of creating a false sense of scarcity and perpetuating inequality where some are overprivileged, which in turn creates poverty and oppression, Timebanking is a pretty radical concept. In these Timebanking networks, time is the currency that is exchanged and each person and their skills are valued equally, whether they're providing childcare, accounting, massage, driving someone to the store or airport, giving tech support, etc.

In a mainstream culture where some people's time is valued at hundreds of dollars per hour, while others aren't compensated with money at all for their labor (such as raising children, caring for elders, cooking, cleaning, and other domestic/caretaking realms), valuing people's time and skills equally creates a whole other culture of reciprocity, abundance, mutual respect, and a strong sense of community.  It gives us permission to ask for help when we need it, to give support that's needed, and to realize the balance and reciprocity in this.

Had there been hourly rates applied to the services that I received and offered, the labor of all those involved would've differed greatly.  Some of the services I received would have been completely out of my reach. And as I'm committed to making my herbal remedies and workshops accessible, had the exchanges been money-based I would have had to sell many, many elixirs and teach many, many classes to make the money that others may earn in just one hour.  The Timebank not only makes these services accessible, it creates fertile grounds to share skills in the spirit of community interdependence.

While I was really interested in the concept, it took me many, many months to finally become a member of the Onion River Exchange (ORE) timebank, and then later the REACH Care Bank, two local timebanks that have since merged.  You can check out their website here.  I felt that I couldn't commit to yet another project.  I didn't want to make offers that I couldn't follow through with.  Once I finally became a member, I realized that you don't even need to post requests or offers, you can simply look over the list of what people are seeking and offering and contact members directly if there are services that you would like to receive or give.  

And what did I need to do? What I already do and love to do! Folks come to my workshops - Herbal Valentines, Do-It-Yourself Bodycare, Spa Day at the Garden of Seven Gables, Lip Balms for Social Justice, Herbal Gift Giving, The Dandelions are Coming!, etc. using Onion River Exchange Community Credit hours instead of money. People in the community have also responded to my offer of herbal products - elixirs, salves, lip balm, syrups, flower essences, and custom made concoctions (such as Lavender Body Butter). I love opening my herbal apothecary up to the community, and it feels especially good when there is a mutual appreciation and an exchange free from money and the capitalist system.

Other exchanges include:

I received a locally- and home-made (rather than sweatshop-made) oceany colored crocheted rag rug for my bathroom, a rust-colored crocheted cozy for my Mason jar water/tea bottle, and a pink and red carrier for my tincture bottles. I got all done up with a consultation with makeup artist, filled my belly with a member's soup that they brought to a member craft bizarre, a fellow herbalist shared their label-making skills with a Photoshop tutorial, and another member gave me a ride to the train.  I renewed my membership with a community health and healing organization, took sewing classes and received a tutorial in using my serger (like a sewing machine, but with multiple needles), a friend gave me a hand putting plastic on my windows for winter-warmth, and someone with a truck helped me move.  I provided companionship to an elder while her family was away (and I got to learn new fun boardgames by playing them with her!).  I've received massage and cupping, as well as help with mending clothes and weeding my garden.  I've used credits to 'rent' community space for workshops, birthday parties, dinners, and ceremonies.  And on and on and on...

When I think of the Timebank, I sometimes get images dancing by like cheesy montages at the end of the final episode of a 1980's sitcom.  The skills learned, the time shared, the support given and received...

Filmmaker Olivier Asselin visited our local Timebank as part of his Possible documentary project:

The “Possible” documentary project is about telling the stories of individuals and communities who are actively engaged in creating a better, more sustainable future. It’s about showing that normal people are doing real things, things that are within the reach of all of us. The aim of this project is to debunk all of the false barriers people create for themselves when they start thinking about transitioning to a more sustainable way of life. I don’t have the money… not enough space… not enough time… I don’t know how… it will never work… I’m alone.

By showing real life examples, people of all ages, of different economic backgrounds, in rural or urban settings, living in all kinds of climates or settings, it will become obvious that no matter who you are, no matter where you live, you can do something.

And here we are...

A 700-member time bank in Central Vermont from Olivier Asselin on Vimeo.

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