By Diana Damato, Monadnock Shopper News, Green Monadnock Column
Know where the happiest place in the world is? Norway, according to the 2017 World Happiness Report published annually by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. In fact, four out of five of the top spots are held by Nordic countries. These countries ranked highly on the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance, the report says. So what does this have to do with Keene, NH?
Keene (and the surrounding region) and these Nordic countries are made up of cohesive, collaborative communities, an important ingredient of their happiness. “What works in Nordic countries is a sense of community and understanding in the common good,” says Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.
Happy communities are not only healthy, they are also sustainable. Forum for the Future describes sustainability as “a dynamic process which enables people to realize their potential and improve their quality of life in ways which simultaneously protect and enhance the earth’s life support systems.”
The combined time and talents of community members in our Monadnock Region are the driving force behind all the positive sustainable action that happens here. Some examples are an increased use of solar power, more energy efficient heating stoves, a thriving farmers’ market and numerous CSAs (community supported agriculture) that produce our own regional food.
The Monadnock Time Exchange (MTX) offers a way to connect people and help them share those time and talents, while working toward the greater good of the community. We often say “I don’t have enough time,” yet when we team up and share services with each other, efficiency and enjoyment can increase. Raking a lawn together or two people simultaneously washing the insides and outsides of windows gets the job done more quickly and can be fun, ending with a cup of tea or cold lemonade. Someone who loves cooking can prepare a meal for someone, giving that person extra time to offer computer assistance to a person who struggles with technology.
Looking at time as something we can pool and have in abundance is an integral concept for the Monadnock Time Exchange. Rather than bartering directly back and forth, members are invited to offer services that they enjoy doing and then direct the flow of hours they earn out to other exchange members who provide services that they seek. This “pay it forward” flow encourages the involvement of more people who can all benefit from making exchanges.
In addition, people of all economic levels can participate, as time (hours) are used in place of money when services are exchanged. Among MTX’s guiding principles are the belief that we all have gifts to share and everyone’s time is equally valued. Another is the idea of reciprocity; that helping works better as a two-way street so instead of asking, “How can I help you?”, the question becomes “How can we help each other build the world we both will live in?”
Social networks are stronger than individuals and by connecting and helping each other, we can reweave communities of support, strength, and trust. And when a social network redefines work, taking the concept of money (and scarcity) out of the equation, it can focus the value of work as whatever it takes to raise healthy children, build strong families, revitalize neighborhoods, make democracy work, advance social justice, and make the planet sustainable. Time exchanges honor, record and reward the kinds of work that are currently undervalued by or even invisible to our monetary system; work like caretaking, helping neighbors and doing volunteer work for the benefit of those in need and their community overall.
Ideas like these must surely be part of a great recipe for happiness.
Happiness may be the best indicator for the health and sustainability of our community. The Monadnock region’s very own time exchange, MTX, would like the network it provides to support every member of our community. Join us and leverage your happiness while enhancing our region’s sustainability! (For more info on MTX: monadnocktimeexchange.com)
Diana Damato is the membership coordinator for the Monadnock Time Exchange, as well as a freelance writer, AWA writing workshop facilitator, and member and former board member of The Sustainability Project. She actively participates in the positive growth of the greater Keene community, where she and her family have lived for nearly 20 years.