Stories That Connect
by Pamela Boyce Simms
Stories that reveal the beauty, vulnerability and strength of our shared humanity are where the Transition, environmental and Timebanking movements intersect.
New Stories Begin
Peter and Michael are neighbors who smile and wave from a comfortable distance across the lawn hedges, but haven’t exchanged more than a few consecutive sentences in the five years they’ve shared a fence. Although they live next door to each other, they travel in separate social circles, belong to different faith communities, and their paths rarely cross. So, the first few minutes of conversation were a bit awkward as they found themselves seated elbow to elbow at a Transition Towns: Interfaith Council-sponsored “Waste NOT Dinner.”
However, the two neighbors quickly discovered over kale salad that they were both passionately concerned about the amount of food Americans waste. That evening spontaneous camaraderie radiated warmly throughout the fellowship hall of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation as members of six faith communities joined a Transition environmental team to discuss food sustainability, good stewardship of the Earth, and zero-waste management.
Episcopalian, Methodist, Dutch Reformed, Roman Catholic, Jewish and Buddhist congregants who hadn’t ever reallytalked, dove into focused conversation over gourmet dishes donated by local restaurants. The zero-waste discussion was interwoven with opportunities to share stories of how families had come to live in Woodstock. As Peter, Michael and their wives Jacqueline and Rachel left the building, the joy and delight of connection glowed from their faces and animated the banter about getting together to continue their conversation.
Positive Visioning: Generation of new stories, traditions and cultural legends is the first Guiding Principle of the Transition environmental movement. Transition Initiatives are based on a dedication to the creation of tangible, clearly expressed and practical visions of communities living beyond their present-day dependence on fossil fuel. Only when we can envision the lives we want, and clearly see where we’re headed, can we make the “story” manifest. The true pith of environmental work from now forward lies in the stories we create as we build one relationship at a time. Above and beyond all else, it is the quality of our relationships that will determine if, and how we stay the course through challenging times ahead.
Doors to New Worlds Open
Andrea winced as she lifted her aching arms to unfurl the sheet across her bed. Not only could her hands no longer manage her beloved paintbrushes, arthritis had stiffened her joints to the point where the simplest household chores were fraught with pain. A fiercely independent, highly accomplished, and increasingly isolated painter, Andrea hadn’t wanted to appear needy. She avoided reaching out for help until unrelenting pain finally forced her hand.
The local timebank paired Andrea with Maria who lived one street over, just across an invisible but universally recognized line where two radically different neighborhoods collided. Maria earned timebank hours by visiting Andrea a couple of days a week to run the vacuum and change bed sheets.
Two years later the two women are inseparable friends. Andrea is now an adopted member of Maria’s spirited family who ushered her across a threshold into an entirely new world of cuisine, cultural festivals, and healing ways of relating. Andrea has accompanied Maria, who had rarely ventured out of her own neighborhood, to every gallery in the area. Maria enthusiastically shares her friend’s passion for art, celebrates, and affirms Andrea’s artistic talent.
Transforming Relationships: Using hours rather than dollars as the unit of currency transforms how people view money; but more importantly it shifts the lenses through which they view one another.
Guiding Principles of Timebanking
We are all equal.
We all give AND receive.
We trust each other.
We are each precious.
Building Resilience isa Guiding Principle of Transition, emphasizing that forging a bond among neighbors is the first order of business in building communities that can withstand shock(s).
Some Guiding Principles of the Transitioning Process….
• Enable sharing and networking.
• Model natural systems’ recognition of interdependence and equal importance of all elements.
• Help people access good information and trust them to make good decisions.
It’s no wonder that Transitioners throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region—New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia—have established, and now animate, many among the dozens of Timebanks that have sprung up in the recent past. Still more Transition Towns work hand in hand with autonomous Timebank teams to sponsor joint activities, deepen the community-building work, and support each other’s growth.
Transition addresses the triple challenge of climate change, dwindling availability of easily accessible resources, and a contracting economy. Timebanking as a practice is one among many strategies in the Transition “Reconomy” campaign to build robust local economies against the backdrop of economic upheaval. However, it is the stories that neighbors share, and the new adventures on which they embark together that form the nexus where Transition Towns and Timebanking intersect.
“You can never awaken using the same system that put you to sleep in the first place.” –Gurdjief
Pamela Boyce Simms is a Certified Transition Trainer,
Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) of Transition US
Transitionmidatlantic.org ~ TransitionUS.org