Eliza Marth is a Micah Fellow serving at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Brookline. She lives in our intentional community at 40 Prescott.
Since beginning Life Together, I have dreaded the day that I would be asked to fundraise for the program. On an intellectual level, I saw the value in learning this as an unfortunate but necessary skill. I was anticipating a script, a protocol for how to ask people for money. I thought I would learn how to manipulate and (con)vince people into opening their wallets. I thought fundraising was a graceful way to objectify people, using people for their money.
What I found at the training instead was an emotional conversation about “the soul of money” and “the inner work of fundraising.” We looked deeper into our culture and own experience of money. I discovered my own anxiety about money being scarce and not having “enough.” When I stepped back for a minute, I began to wonder what “enough” money actually means for me. In our group, there was a wide range of experiences with money: fellows who experienced poverty, wealth, upward mobility, and downward mobility. One thing was universal amongst the fellows: talking about money brought up some difficult emotions.
I did not uncover some hidden secret power of manipulation. Instead, our group articulated things hiding in plain sight: the shame of poverty, the judgement of wealth. We spoke of how Empire sees money: as a savior, a way to get out of a bad situation, a way of gaining status and prestige, or as the driving force that causes humans to cheat, murder, steal and exploit. We considered that money may neither be evil nor good. Money is mere energy, and energy itself is neutral. Energy just helps us to do things.
So as I prepare to fundraise for Life Together, I am reflecting on the three things that I love most about my experience so far this year. I plan to share these experiences with my family and friends, and invite them to be a part of this experience by donating to Life Together. The funds for this programmatic year have already been raised, so another great facet of this fundraising is that the funds will go towards next year’s fellows. Rather than “using” people for their money, I’m inviting people to get in touch with their own values and providing an opportunity for folks I love and care about to practice generosity.
I still have a lot of inner work to do around fundraising and my personal relationship to money. I must say the healing that I have already experienced as I prepare to fundraise has been one of the biggest surprises of my Life Together experience thus far. I would like to express deep gratitude to the Life Together staff, especially Rebecca Behizadeh, who so fearlessly and lovingly lead us in this difficult and healing conversation during our December training.