More Than Money
Issue #17

Cross-Class Relationships

Table of Contents


As a child, my weekends were divided between two very different worlds. On Friday after school, my father brought me and my siblings to stay with his parents in their one-bedroom Queens apartment. Grandma Rachel would tell Grandpa Ben to stop kvetching about his life: how tired he was of getting up before dawn to open the small bindery shop he owned; how his one employee, a member of the printers' union, had more financial security than he; how the lottery tickets he bought each evening never got lucky.

Sunday morning, we three children were then scooped up by our mother to dine with her parents in their stately apartment by Central Park. After being served roast beef by the live-in housekeeper, Grandpa Arthur would insist that we sit up straight and regale us with stories from his and Grandma's latest travels. He'd wink and say he hoped that someday I would become a doctor like him.

Why didn't my two sets of grandparents, each of whom I loved dearly, talk to each other? Why didn't my mother's parents (who often helped us out by buying school clothes for us and a car for my parents) try to make life easier for Grandpa Ben? Why did Grandpa Arthur seem to judge my father so bitterly for "not supporting his family better?" A shy child anyway, I never asked these touchy questions out loud, and the divide between my loved ones remained an icy crust over my childhood.

As an adult, and someone who listens daily to people with wealth as they puzzle out how to create empowered lives and share their gifts with others, I have come to recognize how powerful, pervasive, and unspoken are the issues of class that divide us from others--even if we have regular contact with people from different classes. In this issue of More than Money we venture onto this tender turf.

We open with a brief overview of class groups in the United States that offers some basic vocabulary and concepts for thinking and talking about class. The personal stories that follow are fewer and longer than in many previous issues. Although they reflect some of the pain and pitfalls of reaching across class barriers, we chose to largely highlight cross-class relationships that embody some joy, thoughtful risk-taking, and mutual respect. The closing articles put the stories in wider social context and provide concrete encouragement to those who wish to build deeper cross-class relationships or challenge economic inequality politically.

Although we have included various voices, these pieces--given our mission--are primarily from the perspective of wealthier people. Limited to sixteen pages, we accept that we cannot offer a full analysis of class, or include every kind of important relationship affected by class differences (including the large subject of romantic relationships which we highlighted in issue 5, "Money and Couples" and will touch on again in issue 19, "Women With Wealth"). We have included, however, stories about cross-class relationships with employees, neighbors, church members, housemates, colleagues, and members of the same family.

We hope you are inspired by this issue to connect more meaningfully with people across the class divide. As I learned growing up in a cross-class family, most of us have opportunities close to home to help heal social rifts, an essential part of helping to heal an ever more fractured global community.

--Christopher Mogil, for the editors

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