The Best Last-Minute Gift: Your Time

Timebanking, created in the 1970s, may be an idea whose time has finally come.

At a time when Americans in particular are questioning what has gone wrong in our society, what has happened to our communities, where our humanity has gone, the notion of timebanking feels comforting and old-timey. It has taken many forms since its inception more than 25 years ago, but the gist of it is this: You deposit a certain number of hours doing whatever it is you can offer to do (childcare, design, home repairs, gardening, tutoring, you name it), and in exchange you get to benefit from hours of someone else's time.

Granted, in our grandparents' day, these sorts of exchanges may not have needed a bank. When my grandma left meals out on her front steps for hobos during the Depression she wasn't expecting them to pay her back by doing chores, nor was there a third-party broker negotiating pies for lawn mowing. Nonetheless, it feels like a tentative step away from some of the uglier trappings of modernity and toward using modern innovation to create a more traditional community.

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