Participating in the time bank is not volunteering, at least not in the traditional sense. The way our economy works now, you either make money from your service or you don´t. You´re either a capitalist venture or a non-profit. You´re either profiteering or benevolent. You´re either an employee or a volunteer. And by only using the financial system to operate the entire economy, there doesn´t seem to be any other alternatives. Basically, according to a system of binary exchange between buyer and seller, you´re always either a giver or a taker. Operating in full abundance requires both giving and receiving.

Giving a bit more respect and conscious understanding to the human condition and the development of sustainable civilization, time banking allows us to recognize and implement the fact that we need not be merely givers and takers, but that we are participants, and there is more worth in that than a system of limited exchange can negotiate. If we are to realize full abundance in our lives, we must recognize that our wealth exceeds our methods of exchange. As we move from a competitive economic system, where there can only be winners and losers, to a collaborative economic system, where there are only winners, our methods of exchange must be able to adequately account for our abundance.

As Laurence G. Boldt writes in Zen and the Art of Making a Living, ¨Starting from wealth, we can expand by opening to the recognition that mutual support is the reality of our lives. Every day, we enjoy the gifts of nature and of other people´s talents and energies. Even our clothes, food, and shelter are not the products of our own hands but the gifts of nature and of other people and, if one sees it, of a Great Spirit in life. As we recognize mutual support, we open ourselves to the full joy of living in giving and receiving.¨

Time banking recognizes that that there is value outside of the monetary system, and that the monetary system is simply a human construct designed to account for and exchange our resources based upon our agreement of what is valuable. Being a man-made system, it has certain limitations. Being as it has been designed largely on a debt-development model, it is proving to have severe limitations.

Time banking understands the fact that each one of us has 24 hours in each day. My 24 hours are certainly just as valuable to me as yours are to you. In order for both of us to feel adequately valued, you should have the opportunity to participate in activities you feel inclined to do, as should I. And because we live in a community, chances are great that what we want to do is going to be of benefit to someone else, if not for a lot of people.

In ¨Keeping the GP away : A NEF briefing about community time banks and health,¨ there is a time dollar success story about, ¨One of the most successful projects in the USA, is Elderplan, a social Health Maintenance Organization in New York City. In their first 12 years, mutual volunteers from their Member to Member project have put in over 100,000 hours helping each other, teaching each other and supporting each other to be independent. Member to Member enables volunteers to earn and pay time credits for giving and receiving non-medical services like, shopping, friendly visiting, bill-paying, hospital visiting, home repairs, walking clubs, support groups, self-help courses and others – all funded by time credits earned through the scheme.

“´Often you can’t buy what you really need,´ says Mashi Blech, Elderplan’s director of community services. ´You can’t hire a new best friend. You can’t buy somebody you can talk to over the phone when you’re worried about surgery. But by getting people helping through the time bank we want to involve people as co-producers of their own health care.´”

The infrastructure is now available to provide for ourselves in ways that we haven´t regularly practiced in decades. Time-banking is really about teaching us how to be good neighbors again. Basically, the only way for us to realize our value is for us to realize our value.

Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at The Unbroken Path and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.