July 20, 2018 Common Good

Redefining Time

If you ask people why they don’t do more in their neighborhood or community, a common answer is that they just don’t have time to connect their gifts and benefit from associational life. There is some truth in this. Instead of producing leisure, we are now consuming it. The consumer world persuades us to measure well-being by money, and so the bills arrive while we are buying more stuff at the mall.

… Of all the policy changes necessary to reactivate our community life and the care of our democratic society, redefining the uses of time is most important and most difficult. To make time available requires a radical shift in institutional policy and a cultural shift by neighbors who are accustomed to trying to buy a life rather than making a life. The recognition of time as valuable for families has begun to occur in fits and starts.

… W. K. Kellogg shortened the workweek to allow for more civic and family time for his company’s employees. Some institutions have adopted flextime policies allowing employees to create their own work schedules. Other institutions have established family and pregnancy leave policies. However, these are merely beginnings and apply to a minority of workers. A more comprehensive policy shift could be precipitated by governments, United Ways, or major civic associations by convening an Inter-Institutional Table… a forum for creating community-friendly policies that focused first on opening up time for families and neighborhoods to perform their critical functions. From these discussions, the Table could proceed to define and implement other community-friendly policies…

Invite a friend who shares your desire to build community to sit down and look at your calendar together. This is not an exercise in shame but one of mirroring where you could empower one another to develop new habits. Look at last week’s calendar and notice which things put your gifts the the gifts of others to work. Look for contrast between time spent consuming or producing. Notice and let go of the temptation to “fix” the other person’s sharing or to opt for shame or reframing your own calendar habits. Next, simply ask “how is my time a reflection of future possibilities for community?”  “Is there a ‘no’ I’m postponing?” or “What is the ‘yes’ that I no longer mean?” And notice how time works out in this response.

To go further, consider asking a few leaders in neighboring organizations or civic leaders if they would be interested in considering their version of a Table for promoting habits in the workplace and wider community.



McKnight, John. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (pp. 106-107). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Share with a friend