Make the world better- return to the hope of community…

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Michaela sent me a link to a lovely site called The MOON Magazine– she had discovered it through her day job, which involves running a local community project called a ‘Time Bank’.

The ethos of time banking is to encourage people of all abilities and skills to donate time (which might range from proof reading, gardening, teaching Russian, feeding fish etc etc) in return for using the skills of someone else. Obviously there are practical benefits from this – we can get stuff done that we have not the skills to do ourselves – but the much greater benefit is found in the deep satisfaction that people get from doing something useful, and in making connections with other people. It answers some deep human need, and is the very foundation of community.

For example, we have made a ‘direct exchange’ with an accountant, who helps us with all the complex taxation stuff for our small business, in return for me cutting her grass. Not only do we get to provide one another with a service that fits our skill set, but we also get to meet interesting people, share lives and stories.

The MOON magazine is full of stories like this- things that people have done that make a difference to our relating to one another in a time when the prevailing culture would trend towards our isolation in boxes looking at screens (as you and I are doing right now!)

Check out these films for example.

The man who started Time Banks, Edgar Kahn has an article there in which he says something which chimed very much with my previous post;

It’s not that money and price aren’t useful; but we must not mistake them for the only determination of value. All of us have domains in our life that we define as priceless, where a reduction of their value to market price is unacceptable. Our relations with our loved ones, our families, our friends, for example, are not for sale. Some of us think that same principle applies to other domains: justice, democracy, spiritual realms, the planet.

We cannot let market price define value for a very simple reason. Price is determined by supply and demand. If something is scarce, its price is high. If something is abundant, its price is low. If sufficiently abundant, it has no market value; it is worthless.

Consider what that means: every quality that defines us as a human being is abundant. Every quality that enabled our species to survive and evolve is abundant. What are the qualities our species needed? Here’s a list: our ability to come to each other’s rescue, to care for each other, to work together, to come together to make decisions, to stand up for what’s right, to oppose what’s wrong. If we accept the message that money sends about value, then being admirable human beings is worthless.

Money sends another message: Your worth is determined by how much money you make. But most of the money in world markets is generated by money making money from money….

…Back in ancient Greece, Aristotle characterized such exchanges as making “barren metal breed.” Today making money takes the form of digits breeding digits in cyberspace. Now, as then, we seem to turn to oracles and soothsayers to divine a future that remains beyond our control or theirs.

Time Banks stem from an awareness that we cannot grant money an exclusive power to determine value. We need another medium of exchange that defines value differently and that sends a different message. Msg. Charles J. Fahey, a priest of the Diocese of Syracuse, New York, who was the director of Catholic Charities, put it this way, decades ago, when he announced: “I have good news and bad news for you,” which he summed in the words, “We have no money. All we have is each other.”

Amen.

If you want to change the world, if you want to make life deeper, more fulfilling, more satisfying, then build community. Find friends you can laugh and share with, hold things in common. Stop thinking that money is going to help with any of this- beyond a certain level, money just enslaves both those that have it and those that want it.

(By the way, those last things were not original ideas, they should rightly be attributed to Jesus.)

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