Gerloff, Ed.D., is the editor of
More Than Money Journal
Her prior publications and consulting work in schools, businesses,
and nonprofits have focused on learning, growth, and change.
She holds a doctorate in human development from Harvard University.
I once heard a prominent member of the simplicity
movement say laughingly to an audience of eager listeners:
"Everybody wants 'community'-but the trouble with community
" The French writer Jean-Paul Sartre
expressed a related idea when a character in his play No
Exit concluded: "
L'enfer, c'est les autres."
is other people.")
Such comments give voice to a basic human
dilemma. We want community and connection, but other people
sometimes rub us the wrong way. We want to share with others,
but we like to have things for ourselves. We want to be
part of a community, but we also like our separateness.
The friction caused by these competing desires can be uncomfortable,
and that discomfort can lead us to make choices we might
not always select if we were to take a slower, more careful
look at the consequences. When it comes to money and community,
those consequences can be subtle, but deep.
My mother used to tell me that one thing
she loved about our town was the fact that it had economically
integrated neighborhoods. At first I didn't know what she
meant; it wasn't until I saw other small towns, with their
rows of look-alike houses for factory workers well sectioned-off
from areas with individually designed, higher-priced homes,
that I started to get an inkling that our town was unusual.
Within our city limits, doctors' and lawyers' houses sat
next to factory workers' homes. Big houses were built next
to little or mid-sized ones. Almost all of the children
in those houses went either to the city's public schools
or to the local Catholic school, the only private school
around. The mixing of professional and working classes,
living together as neighbors in common, daily life, seemed
natural. Normal. The way things were and ought to be.
Like my mother, I now consider the economic
integration I grew up with to be quite rare-and valuable.
The choices made by the citizens who first built the town
created a lasting legacy for generations to come. The subtle
message conveyed by the underlying housing pattern was a
fundamental sense of equality and human dignity.
all part of one community
. People didn't always get
along, and they didn't necessarily all mingle too much with
one another, but they weren't cordoned off from each other.
The criterion for being a respected member of the community
was not what kind of house you could afford. If you were
present, you belonged.
I cherish that legacy. Certainly it wasn't
perfect. Our small community wrestled with most of the same
problems that other communities did. But I am intrigued
by the thought that somewhere back in an earlier time, the
choices that some people made about the relationship between
money and community conveyed a message to future generations.
The idea that the choices we are making
about money today will affect future generations of communities
reverberates throughout this journal issue. If we listen
to the voices in this issue, we can't help but be reminded
that "community" is not about money; it is about more than
money. Yet our views about-and our relationship to-money
influence the way we conceive of and experience community.
Surely the American Indians of the northwestern United States,
who regularly held potlatch ceremonies to share the tribe's
bounty, viewed and related to money differently than does
the board of directors of a large corporation whose business
strategy includes putting local community businesses out
Among the Northwest Indians-who
lived in what is today Washington, Oregon, and northern
California-the potlatch ceremony was a ritual through
which gifts such as food and clothing were distributed
to members of the community. Those who shared their
wealth in this way were regarded with admiration
Our People, Giving Away
By Sam English of the Turtle
Mountain Redlake Chippewa Indians
in Redlake, Minnesota
as surely, the consequences of each group's choices about
money and community have affected and will affect generations
far into the future.
word "community" derives from the Latin
which literally means "to give among each other." What is
given might be money-but it might also be time, respect,
friendship, or perhaps a helping hand. Bernard Lietaer,
a specialist in complementary currencies that develop strong
community relationships, has said, Â°I define my community
as a group of people who welcome and honor my gifts, and
from whom I can reasonably expect to receive gifts in return."
journal issue, we see that money can indeed be one of those
gifts. And when money is used in conjunction with other
gifts such as respect and dignity, it can enhance and facilitate
community, now and in the future-if we choose to make it
provocative interviews, articles, and stories on these pages
invite us to remember the future and to think about the
messages we are sending it, even as we use our resources
to enhance our own-and
In recent years, with high rates of growth in housing, including
subsidized housing complexes, the town has grown less economically
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