Many people assume that Old Money excludes other people: people who aren’t as rich, people who aren’t as well-traveled or as well-read, people who aren’t WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant).
While elitists and racists abound in every social class, the majority of Old Money associates with whomever they please. They do this because they’re very comfortable with their position in society. If they’re seen socializing with welders, waitresses or firemen, it’s not going to threaten their self-image or society’s perception of their status. They are who they are.
The same confidence doesn’t always accompany the newly-minted. Their store-bought status and recently-improved circumstances make them often want to put as much distance between themselves and their humble beginnings as possible. They assume that they no longer have anything in common with their former friends or colleagues who haven’t been as fortunate.
This assumption can be costly: friendship is a rare commodity. People we grew up with know us as no others can. Their loyalty and candor can be more valuable than gold. Any awkwardness that may accompany a sudden change in circumstances is worth getting over. Lifelong friends are a treasure.
Another dangerous assumption is the one we make when we encounter someone who appears to be very different than we are. “Appears” is a key word here. People with a different skin pigment, a different religion, or a different accent may hold the same values as we do.
Actually, they often do, but we may miss an opportunity to enrich our lives with their friendship and perspective. Why? Because we assume that a Muslim or a Mormon can’t possibly share our interest in the well-being of our community, our concern about the environment, or our passion for the New England Patriots.
The truth is simpler, but sometimes more difficult to accept. We all have much more in common than we’re willing to admit. Everyone wants to live in a safe community. We want opportunity. We want our children to grow up with hope. We worry about extremists in all walks of life, the shortsightedness of our present leaders, and the apparent absence of future ones.
Yes, we do naturally seek to associate with those whom we believe share our values. We just have to remember that we can’t know if someone does or not by simply looking at them.
So have courage: leave the prejudice to past generations. The world is too small. The problems we face are too great. We’re all standing on common ground.