The Time Bank

I came home Friday night late from work and in about ten minutes I had prepared a delicious lite meal. Nancy was surprised and I must admit, without seeming to brag, that I surprised myself. I took a round of goat cheese, rolled it breadcrumbs, diced a shallot and put it on top of the cheese and warmed it in the oven. I went out to the greenhouse, grabbed some leaves of several different kinds of lettuce and soon had a salad. I went to the pantry, grabbed a jar of tomato sauce, added some water and salt, and put it in a pan on the stove. Once the cheese warmed up, I put it on top of the salad, and poured the tomato soup into mugs. Everything in the dinner was homemade.

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What made this ten-minute dinner possible was work that I had done much earlier. I made the goat cheese two days before. The lettuce was planted a month ago and tended regularly ever since, protected from the elements in the greenhouse. The tomatoes were planted last summer, and I canned several gallons of tomato sauce in September.

I got to thinking how this ten-minute dinner was like cashing in a savings. The earlier work I had done was essentially about storing time — and energy. I was making this time-savings available to myself somewhere in the future. It is like having a time bank. The benefits of the work you’ve done today or in the past can be redeemed in the future.

Of course, our ancestors would have understood the concept of a time bank even more instinctively than we do today. I could have had an “instant” dinner. I could have shopped for these ingredients and brought them home and made the dinner just as quickly. I could have had this dinner prepared for me. In either case, I would be paying for other people’s time whereas this personal time bank is about managing my own investment.