Pilar’s Journey

Pilar-Gonzales-webBy Pilar Gonzales

When John Bloom invited me to help conceive, plan, and experience the Conversation on Money, Race, and Class; I was honored to participate in the life experiment with him.

Conversation has been the single most important tool in my professional life as a fundraiser. It’s also one of the best survival skills. Since early childhood, I had to learn to converse in both English and Spanish. Living with my Spanish-speaking grandparents, I often served as an interpreter between them and the dominant world.

You can’t speak about money without addressing class, and you can’t discuss either without addressing race. With this conversation, I was resolved to bring my fullest self to the circle and not be afraid to bring my history of poverty into the room.

I wanted to heal old money wounds, and did in some ways. For instance, at one conversation we talked about money and food. As a kid, I remember having to sign for groceries at the local store because my grandfather couldn’t. I never interpreted the humiliating comments to my grandfather. I remembered how a month’s time was marked by having food or not having food. I could tell you exactly what day of the week it was because there was only coffee, beans or tortillas left to eat.

In our group conversations, we talked about debt, what abundance looks like in a family of color, what it’s like to stretch one’s paycheck when you’re working class, coming into money, and much more. We cried at the stories of racist exclusion, fear and loneliness when you’re a child of color; when your dad can’t get a job because he’s brown or black or a poor white person. We giggled at our habits of saving money, of pinching pennies, of what makes us feel rich, and of what we do to hide our wealth. All of it mattered.

I’ve read that a new marriage will last longer if you talk about how you each handle money, about your financial dreams, or even divulge your financial debts before you marry. What sage advice. Here we were as an intentional community of people and we’re sharing some of our deepest experiences on money, race, and class. It was honest and felt mutually compassionate.

It’s impossible to say what it would do for you—the reader—to have a conversation like this. We could not have imagined the outcome. Yet years later, I’m still sharing money secrets, and standing up to racist situations that would have swallowed me up in a different time.

I thank my colleagues who stay in the conversation every day of their lives, and serve this world through their enlightenment.

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