The Pros and Cons of Being Distinctly Anything
Bean Juice

Banking Like Jesus Would

Yesterday, I went to an orientation for Columbia's new Time Bank and now I can barely think of anything else. The group has been up and running only since February 2007, and already it has over 130 members. The concept is simple--it's a network of people who barter with each other, not directly but through a central hub which keeps track of credits and debits. So if I rake your leaves, I earn credit in the time bank. I can then ask for help with my website, and get it from someone in my community with that expertise, not necessarily the person whose lawn I raked.

There are so many things I like about this. For one, a basic principle of time banking is that everyone has assets. Everyone has something they can contribute to a community--there aren't a group of people who can only give and another group who can only receive. For another, I appreciate the idea that an hour of leaf raking is equal to an hour of website design. There are very few places in our world where that is true, but in the context of neighbors helping each other, it feels exactly right.

Most of all, I appreciate a system which enables me to connect with neighbors around their needs and their gifts in a way that removes the social awkwardness of asking for favors. My friend Jen Lemen says she makes friends out of neighbors by asking for so many small favors from them that they feel connected to her and eventually ask for something in turn. I admire the community Jen creates, but could never, in a million years, go about it that way. Maybe it's because I grew up in the Midwest, maybe its because I grew up Presbyterian, or maybe it just goes against my understanding of the rules of civility. I would have to be in very dire straits before I asked my neighbor directly to help me rake my leaves.

But now that I've joined the Columbia Time Bank, I have an image of never raking leaves again. I have no problem with the idea of bartering an exchange of services with my neighbors. In fact, yesterday I kept thinking of things I would LOVE to do for my neighbors. I started off with giving rides and running errands, but soon found myself dreaming of giving pie-baking lessons. Then, mid-day, I had an idea that ran through my body like an electric shock. I could sew someone a Halloween costume! Making Halloween costumes is one of my great joys in life, and I am soon to be done with Rosa's mermaid costume. I love the thought of making a few more in exchange for...well, never raking my leaves.

Between time banking and Columbia Freecycle I may be able to go completely off of cash money soon! Could it be that this is what Jesus had in mind when he told people to give all of their money away? Maybe he wasn't recommending that they live in destitute poverty. Maybe what he was really suggesting is that they live more cooperatively with each other, exchanging services, sharing things, piling up storehouses filled not with grain, but with good will.


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Lydia Schoch

I wish that Toronto had a Time Bank - what a great idaa! :)


Woah, I've thought of ideas like this...I am inspired it is actually happening somewhere. Who got it started? How? Would love to learn more about this in terms of how to get one going.

Heather Kirk-Davidoff

There are timebanks all over the country, I guess. Although the concept was new to me, it's been around for a while. Check out

jen lemen

heather--check out "whuffie"--the money-free currency that is wholly dependent on your social capital (connection + trust). and for the record, i would totally start with asking to borrow silly things like soy sauce or mustard and offer in return equally random things like a few extra rolls of paper towels from costco or half my asparagus before i would graduate to community leaf raking. :)

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