By Abby Greer, Kent Community TimeBank
As the founder and director of a timebank, I have seen many profound changes in people as they experience, first hand, an economy without cash. Beyond saving money and time, beyond folks getting things done that they have been putting off, it turns out timebanking may be one of the keys to unlocking that incredible something inside each one of us.
One of my favorite stories about our hidden gifts is the experience of John. He was one of our first 50 members—an older gentleman, heavy-set, unemployed, a bit uncomfortable in social situations, sometimes even a little disheveled. He had neither car nor computer, so I decided to keep an eye on him so I could assist him if he ever needed help with recording his exchanges.
As time went on, the owner of a local art gallery called to let me know John had done some work for him — lots of work, actually — and he wanted to be sure the hours were being recorded properly.
I went into John’s account and got all the hours logged and sorted. Then I looked at John’s balance. I was stunned at how many hours he had collected. This quiet, gentle, unassuming man was so much more than anyone knew on the surface.
Clearly, John was, and is, a true giver.
I decided to meet with John at a local coffee shop to talk about some of the ways he might be able to spend some of those dozens of time credits. He arrived looking tired and maybe even a little discouraged. We talked a bit about potlucks and some events that were happening in the Timebank. He told me about some ideas he had. I told him I logged all his hours for working at the art gallery.
And then something occurred to me.
“John, do you realize that you are now the third wealthiest person in Kent in time credits?”
There was a stunned silence. John and I locked eyes. What I saw I will never forget. John sat up straight, he squared his shoulders, his eyes sparkled and an aura of lightness seemed to surround him. I felt the room grow brighter.
With our eyes still locked and me smiling a smile bigger than Texas, we began to laugh. And not just a giggle, but a full-out, hearty, deep laugh. Both of us. And then we both started to cry.
If one can literally see self-worth or self-value, I had just seen it. And I am sure that in that moment John felt a wealth unlike anything he had ever experienced. And it had nothing to do with money. It was about that amazing connection when we know we are seen — when who we are and what we do takes on a value deeper than the mighty dollar.
Timebanking unlocked a gift in John that neither he, nor anyone else, could have seen or felt before. He changed when he understood his own gift. The thing is, I changed, too. I knew in that moment that timebanking is more than just an exchange of services. It is the essence of valuing every single member. It is the heart of community.