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How important is it to have a tribe

What if I told you having a tribe could be a life or death decision? OK. Maybe not that dramatic, although it has been proven that people with plenty of social interaction live longer. The book “The Blue Zones” researches the places in the world where the most centenarians live. It credits the individuals’ social groups as one of the key factors to living over 100 years of age. Longevity is partially due to being in the “right tribe”.

Some of these elderly people chose (or were born into) social circles that supported healthy behaviors. In Okinawa, Japan, the “moais” or group of five friends committed to one another for life. Researchers found that the group of elderly folks in Sardinia laughed with friends, were sarcastic and social. The California centenarian groups maintained strong social networks, frequently visiting neighbors and listening, laughing and being grateful for what they had.

The groups, or tribes, provided these 100-year-olds with support systems. It also helped to keep younger people in their company, providing learning opportunities and new perspectives.
Yesterday a former flight attendant roommate (1 of 10 from my Hong Kong days) sent out a group message to 5 of us asking for support. She had some tough news to share. She has a pretty aggressive form of cancer.

The responses of the group made my heart full. They made me realize that her tribe was circling the wagons and lending support. The responses were messages full of faith, prayers and love.
The amount of support this dear friend was getting from all over the world was profound. Reponses came in from Florida to Hong Kong and New Jersey to Jackson Hole. I haven’t seen one of the women in that tribe in 20 years. But our bonds were strong from when we were flying the “friendly skies of United” and coming home to our tiny, 2-room apartment, with a bathroom the size of your kitchen sink.

Why were we still connected after all this time? Because we had shared so many hopes and dreams with one another in that tiny apartment. We discussed our faith and our fears. Now here we were – miles apart – yet the bond was still alive.


What is a tribe?

~ I refer to a “tribe” as a team of friends connected by similar interests or goals.
Tribes of individuals used to have their own languages. They had symbols for their group and supported one another through thick and thin…
When my mother died back in 2014, one of my tribes (my Austin tribe) was there for me. They prayed with (and for) me and my family, they brought food by the house, and one member even stayed with mom while I had to run to a meeting.

Why seek out a tribe?

~ Maybe you feel lonely or disconnected in your community. A tribe fosters love and support. It can also be useful when looking for resources to help you do anything from remodel your home to build your website for your new business.

Tonight at dinner a tribe of women sat next to my husband and me. The entire conversation was about their babies. What to do when little Johnny gets a rash, what kind of soap to use, what foods can cause skin irritations. What wonderful resources these young mothers can be for each other!

How do you join a tribe?

~ Here’s the good news. There is no ceremony involving animals or blood! Many times, finding a new tribe and joining it are as simple as reaching out to a group that does something you’re interested in.

Sometimes we must find new tribes when we move or start a new job. Neighbors can form tribes. Work associates can form tribes. Small groups from church can become our tribes.
The key is to express an interest in getting to know and spend time with them. It can take time to build trust within the group. You want it to be a group where everyone can share their deepest feelings and insecurities.

How many tribes can you join?

~ There is no limit – other than your ability to stay deeply connected with the people involved. I have several tribes. One from my hometown, another from the town where I live now, and I still keep up with my tribe of former work associates.

What can you do to be a good member of the tribe?

~ Stay in contact with others. Be willing to give of yourself to others when they are in need. Don’t just take from them when you are in need.

You may have noticed that my Hong Kong roommate contacted 5 of the 10 women to ask for support. Why only 5? Because the 5 of us have remained in touch. I flew to California to support one of them in a new business venture. Another met me for lunch in Chicago when she and I were both there on layovers- long after our time in Hong Kong together. A third and her husband now exchange Christmas cards with my husband and me (neither of us was married when we were roommates).

No matter what your situation: Seeking change, trying to find your voice, or looking for support in a new business, a TRIBE can help. I would encourage you to seek out others who have your same interests, speak your same “language”, and who will be there as a support system through thick and thin for each other. BONUS: Your tribe could add years to your life!