morning when I come to work, I can't wait to check my
e-mail for the latest messages from participants of the
More than Money
Internet Discussion Group. As moderator
of this free-wheeling conversation, I'm astonished by
the depth, honesty, and helpfulness shared by the 100
subscribers signed up for the
"listserve." Most of these people have never met, or even
talked on the phone, yet as one participant put it, "When
I sit down to my computer to pick up my messages, I feel
as if I am at a steamy cafe, chatting with friends."
prompts this electronic dialogue? There are probably many
individual answers, but the common desire is to talk about
the impact of money in our lives. The contributors, whether
the "regulars" or occasional participants, tell very personal
stories that comment on varied concerns, including how
to bring our deepest values to bear on our earning, investing,
spending, giving, and social action. The goal is not agreement,
but understanding and reflecting on each others' remarkably
human beings have an innate need to get together and talk
over the things they care about and believe in? In a delightful
book I recently read,The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Community Centers,
Beauty Parlors, General Stores, Bars, Hangouts and How
They Get You Through the Day, sociologist Ray Oldenburg
answers with a resounding yes.
a "great good place" to talk is usually a physical place
like a neighborhood coffee shop. Yet his basic notion
can just as easily refer to temporary gatherings such
as workshops, conferences, support groups, and salons.
It can even include "virtual" places such as e-mail lists,
electronic forums, and internet chat rooms--anywhere where
"conversation is the main activity." In such places, people
have an opportunity for playful interaction and dialogue,
an outlet for expressions of hope and frustration, and,
very importantly, a participatory way to learn more about
the world. As Oldenburg
notes, "What the tavern offered long before television
or newspapers was a source of news along with the opportunity
to question, protest, sound out, supplement and form opinion
locally and collectively."
people love to talk, but the
More than Money
group is still a rare bird. These people are not just
talking. They are talking about money, power, and privilege.
In fact, they are openly talking about their own money,
power, and privilege! This is almost never done in polite
society. The taboos and fears about talking too much or
too directly about personal wealth are challenged and
stretched in these conversations. The usual response,
though, is one of relief and new insight. There seems
to be power in talking out loud about the money in our
lives, in having the chance to say the once unsayable
to another human being.
was 19 when I first broke the taboo against talking about
money. Another press operator at the printshop where I
worked had just complained that the company didn't pay
us enough. I gulped, and finally asked, "So, how much
do you make?" It turned out that this working mother of
three-who had four more years on the job than I did-was
making $3.50 an hour. I was making $5.50 an hour for exactly
the same work. For a moment, I considered keeping my higher
pay to myself, but it just didn't feel right. I gulped
again, and told her my "secret."
was angry and bitter, of course, but didn't blame me.
After talking about the differences in our wages awhile,
we talked to the other four printers in the department
and discovered a pattern of extreme sex discrimination.
As a group, we marched into our supervisor's office and
demanded pay equity for the entire crew. And we got it!
Everybody started making at least $5.50 an hour by the
end of the week. My coworker's wages were raised to $6.00
due to her years of job seniority.
early experience of "breaking the silence" taught me that
new possibilities emerge when we talk openly together
about money. If we gather the courage, we can learn from
each other, inspire each other, even face some painful
truths, and make changes in our lives and our world. Have
you ever felt stuck or alone in your efforts to become
a more creative steward of wealth, to influence your family
in positive directions, to get closer to your friends,
to name the pains that can come from living in what psycholo
gist Jessie O'Neill has so aptly called "the Golden Ghetto?"
Well, talking can help.
Internet Discussion Group, we get a clear glimpse of this
process. While it has been difficult to choose which few
themes to include from over 600 printed- out pages of
e-mail amassed over a year and half, it has been a pleasure
to revisit the many conversations that have happened in
this "great good place." In the end, we chose three juicy
dialogues and dubbed them: 1) breaking the silence, 2)
opening to compassion, and 3) creating a better world.
To round out the issue, we've also included a closing
article by Anne Slepian and Christopher Mogil on "Finding
Good Places For Money Talk."
though this issue is a departure from our typical format
of publishing more in-depth, personal interviews and several
articles focused on a single content theme, we think these
three thoughtful and engaging dialogues offer proof of
the power of talk. Enjoy the conversa tion!
Chase, managing editor
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