24 hours in my pocket

“We all wake up with 24 hours in our pocket” – Dr. Edgar S Cahn

In the community room of McDonald Road Library, four voices sing in harmony. A barbershop quartet volunteered their time to sing at the launch of the new Leith Time Bank. Four singers that compliment each other, creating a rich and beautiful sound, seems a wholly appropriate way to celebrate this new venture.

There are four more voices in harmony here too. Anne Munro and Senga Armstrong (of the Pilmeny Development Project), Kate Kasprowicz (Time Banking Coordinator for Edinburgh Volunteer Centre), and Dr. Edgar Cahn (OK, so he isn’t present, as such) all sing the same tune…and I love the sound of their music!

Anne’s work focuses particularly on helping to reduce isolation for older people living in the Leith area. She states without question that a time bank is an excellent way of achieving her aims; she knows that a sense of purpose and usefulness is central to well being and connectedness.

Senga and Kate explain how the time bank works. One hour’s time (helping somebody else) equals one credit, and one credit buys an hour’s time (somebody else helping you). It didn’t even occur to me, but Kate points out the message this intentionally delivers: everybody’s time is of equal worth. Whether you are a brain surgeon (her example!), a good listener, or a dab hand with the iron; we need and value what you have to offer.

I am not unfamiliar with the concept of time banking, and I have thought for a long time what an excellent idea it is. I have often imagined, however, that some people would be reticent to identify their own skills or talents and therefore wouldn’t engage. But Senga explains that her role is to tease out the gifts and potential contributions of new members; they needn’t come with a list of what they plan to offer.

When an attendee asks if she could give her credits away (she would rather help others than receive help herself) she is gently encouraged to alter her thinking. This is not volunteering. It is “creating bridges through giving and receiving between different communities, cultures, and generations”. Their PowerPoint says so. The receiving is equally important when we are trying to build bridges – if you don’t accept what other people have to offer, you rob them of the opportunity to contribute.

Dr. Edgar Cahn said that the one thing we all have in common is time. “We all wake up with 24 hours in our pocket”. He saw the potential for this common asset to be used to connect neighbours. The potential for reciprocity is limited only by time, in which we are all equally wealthy, thus  he founded TimeBanks USA. Through donations of time and energy, networks are built between people who may not otherwise have met. He has a book published called “No More Throwaway People: The Co-Production Imperative”. No more throwaway people, isn’t that beautiful? It is shocking to think of the alternative…

Before the afternoon concludes, Kate shares the story of two young men who helped an elderly lady with some heavy lifting and in turn discovered how much they enjoyed hearing her stories of times gone by. She was nervous of them when they first arrived, and they may have dismissed her days of contribution as over. But as they spent time together, they discovered that they were all “just folk”. Folk who had differences in their lifestyle and outlook, but fundamentally, folk who wanted to connect, contribute, and care.




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3 responses to “24 hours in my pocket

  1. I love this excerpt. I am also not unfamiliar with time banks however this has created a new and welcome shift in my thinking. It is terribly shocking to think of the alternative to “no more throwaway people”. I needed the reminder that each persons time is of equal value as that is the precise notion that has created a barrier to my examining Time Banking more intently. An hour of pulling weeds is equal to an hour of computer repair is equal to an hour of hairdressing is equal to an hour of paper shredding…Wonderful. Thank you for bringing me in from the cold!

  2. Anna Copland

    I am new to the concept of time banking but I am certainly going to be looking in to it in NYC. What a great way to value our unique contributions.

  3. I remember spending an evening talking to Edgar Cahn and John McKnight. it was so magical!!! I went without food that night because I knew the possibility probably wouldn’t come again… they taught me so much. I had never made the link between TimeBanking –> Social Justice –> co-production. The fact that everyone qualifies on equal terms blew me away. They were so generous and kind with their thinking, I’ll never forget that night.

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