Value of time
By RICHIE DAVIS
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
(Published in print: Thursday, January 2, 2014)
“Time is money” is one of those truths that rarely gets challenged.
Especially in these economically shaky times, some people are questioning whether the almighty dollar should be our society’s only currency. They’re seeking alternative ways to build an economy that also builds community.
“A lot people go to work, they come home, and they maybe have a close group of friends,” says Megan McDonough of Colrain, one of more than 500 members of Valley Time Trade, which began about four years ago. “But this is a way to broaden that network of who you’re having interactions with. The medium we’re used to is money, but with this network, you’re able to trade your time, too.”
McDonough, who does administration for a nonprofit organization in Northampton, said she learned about the time bank at a gathering in Colrain a few years back but didn’t get involved until she cut back work hours earlier this year and began looking for ways to fill free time.
“A lot of people have a job where we do one thing, and our culture encourages specialization,” says McDonough. “But the reality is that people usually have many skills. You can’t necessarily get a job doing all those things, but it’s a way to potentially share those skills with other people.”
The commuting woman offered to share rides, and also said she likes to work on art projects.
“Somebody took me up on that. They wanted to make a lamp shade,” she said. So McDonough took out a few library books about making lamp shades, found some Asian rice papers and onion-skin paper, and made a lamp shade for the person’s frame.
She’s also shared her computer skills and has also been in touch with someone about getting a chair massage.
By offering services on the Valley Time Trade website — where the hundreds of categories range from bartending to packing help and portrait photography to offering support to new mothers, child care and farming — members are “paying forward” into this community with the understanding that they can get repaid, over time, in services they want.
“We’re taught that debt is bad, and when we’re talking about money, I’d agree,” McDonough says. “But when you’re talking about goodwill and sharing, sometimes accepting a gift from another person is what makes the whole system work, as well as giving your time. People can have a positive or negative balance. The economy is a lot more than the exchange of money.”