The title to this post will connect you to an article in today's Boston Globe about Time Banks. Created 20 years ago by a law professor at UDC, Edgar Cahn, time banks serve multiple functions. They are a way for people in a community to network, to get and give help to one another, and to build community. Now, there are more than 100 time banks across the U.S., and more opening every day. But they are much more important than just barter.
Unlike the monetary economy, which values a doctor’s time more than a day-care worker’s, in time banks the lawyer’s hour equals the same time dollar as the laborer’s. Unlike a barter economy of traded favors — the auto mechanic tunes up the car of the plumber who then fixes the mechanic’s leaky sink — time bank members pay it forward. Unlike a traditional bank, time banks regularly schedule social events and, in more diverse communities, build bridges across racial and ethnic divides.That's genius!
‘‘In a lot of neighborhoods, people don’t know their neighbors. They just moved into town. They work all the time. This is a way to build social supports,’’ says Katherine Ellin, a founder of the Cambridge group. ‘‘Because informal networks require that you be socially competent, sometimes people who are a little bit odd get excluded. This is a way to include everybody.’’
The Lynn Time Bank is an outgrowth of a support group for parents of children with mental retardation and other developmental delays, and Ellin’s is an outgrowth of one for parents of children with mental illness.
‘‘Rather than saying we have people who are mentally retarded that we would like to include in the community, we’re saying they’re already members of the community,’’ says Marcel Charpentier, president of the Lynn board and a supervisor for the state’s Department of Mental Retardation. ‘‘Our focus was to start a time bank that was generic and neighbor-to-neighbor. Then you can create entrée for people with disabilities.’’