We recently caught up with Jessie Fuller, a teacher in Riverside, California who has been a member of a local Common Change group for years.
Common Change: How did you initially hear about and get connected with Common Change?
Jessie Fuller: We first learned of Common Change (or Relational Tithe as it was called at the time) through the book Irresistible Revolution [by Shane Claiborne]. We were extremely intrigued and it just so happened that shortly after reading the book, we met Jenn and Damien O’Farrell who were part of the group as well.
CC: What have been some of the joys and challenges of your group’s experience?
JF: Ohhhh, so many joys. One of the most recent ones has got to be the scholarships that we have been able to award students at my school. We invite them to go through the process of writing an essay and a member from our local chapter comes in to interview our students. We want them to feel heard and that their story matters and to feel that the money they received was dignified. More than the money that we have given is the hope that is communicated in the gift – You are seen, your voice is valued, you have people who believe in you and your pain can be fuel to move forward and you can transform it into healing for others.
The challenges and opportunities for growth are more on the part of members – we are not here to control or put contingencies on what a person should/shouldn’t do with the money or judge the decisions they make. I think this is the beautiful and humbling part of being a part of Common Change and as members who meet together, it is important to have the hard conversations/reflections with ourselves and our fellow members.
CC: What have you learned and how have you seen the group grow?
JF: I think the deepest learning and growth for myself and the group is the heightened awareness that money is not always the best way to support people or it is just a small piece. The real hope is to continue to deepen relationships with others and to [not] view the relationship as an “I’m helping them,” but a true mutual reciprocation of love and enjoyment, as any genuine relationship would have.
CC: How has your participation impacted your relationships and your perspective on finances & generosity?
JF: I think I am increasingly aware that money is really just a vehicle. On one hand, it is such a HUGE impediment for upward mobility, especially in the case of many of the students that I have the pleasure of working with. And yet, the reality is that there is such abundance amongst my husband and I and the social group that we have access to (and not because of anything we have done, but completely through unearned privilege). That said, it is so cool to celebrate redistribution with my students. This can be a funky thing though. I don’t want them to think they are just someone’s charity case, so in the situation with the scholarships, they work for it. We ultimately know we will give it to them, but I think there is something extremely powerful to owning your story and seeing yourself as an overcomer, no longer a victim. So, the money is the tangible thing they need to pursue education, but really on the deeper level, it is hugely impactful to know that there are adults who believe in them, recognize their worth, and are supporting them.