Eating Hours

This article written by time bank member, Monica A.

Monica & Baby
Doing very well with a little help from the time bank!

(photo by Michael Free)
“Stock your freezer!” Everyone had the same advice when I was pregnant. But no one warned me that grocery stores and cooking would be out of reach; I wasn’t able to stand the sight of food for months, not even the neat colorful boxes on store shelves. (Yes, I often ate with my eyes closed, holding my nose.) So, no cooking for me. I was delighted when I realized that I could use the Time Bank.

I had joined the Time Bank earlier that year. My husband and I were walking down to the ferry on a sunny afternoon, having a pleasant conversation about non-monetary exchange systems, when we stumbled upon some theoretic challenges. We were trying to figure out how to fairly measure work done, effort, skill, demand, etc. For instance, what if two people each paint a fence, but one person does a better job than the other? Should the two people get credited the same, or different amounts? Should the person who owns the brushes get credits, even if she does no work? The time bank cuts through all of that by counting all time as equal: an hour credit for an hour worked. A week later my husband told me there was a time exchange group on the island, and we should go learn about it. While we were learning about the West Sound Time Bank, it occurred to me that this neighborly system would be extremely useful to new parents.

I was hesitant at first, because I would have to get into serious time debt to get started. But people reassured me that debt is required; it takes a balance of people offering services and receiving services to keep the system going. So I posted a request for help with all that freezer stocking I wasn't able to do for myself. To my absolute delight, a professional chef responded. Her healthy meals kept my baby and me going for months.

I have made other fun exchanges: I offered computer assistance in exchange for German conversation lessons (you can squeeze both into one hour if you conduct the computer assistance in German); digitizing bluegrass tapes and family heirlooms using an old cassette player I’d bought at the Rotary auction; giving rides to the beach…

I get a thrill from recording hours and knowing that I’m helping neighbors. And at a certain point, keeping track of hours falls away as friendships flourish.