In My Tribe

A few minutes ago, I was standing over the sink, eating cold fried chicken, and letting my mind wander. The house was almost totally quiet, and I was basking in the cool of the air-conditioned house. Each morning this week, I had been serving as a tent mother to the tribe of Issachar as part of our church Bible School experience known as Marketplace.

Churches all over do a similar program, and it is tremendous. This afternoon, after the chaos and bustle of the week, I could (like my children) tell you all about what we did at Marketplace, but I am dwelling on this concept of tribes. You may not share my faith, may not be concerned with the details of a church vacation bible school program, but I am fairly sure you share the human need to find and be part of your tribe. 

I was responsible for a tribe of rising 2nd-graders (one of which was my son), and it was amazing how quickly they formed a true community. They knew almost instantly how to work together, how to cheer for each other, how to look to me and the other leaders for guidance and support. They were a unit. 

I was also interested to see how within the tribes, kids "found" each other fairly instantly. The little boys especially connected with each other, and I was reminded of how important a tribe is to my son. He's always been an unusually independent kid, able to play by himself when most of his peers could or would not. But recently, I've been frustrated by his unwillingness to play alone. He always wants someone to come outside and throw or shoot or hit or kick with him. He wants someone to play a board game. He needs a playmate. This week has helped me get past my frustration and, through observing other boys his age, speculate that this is an important season in his life, one where he defines himself through the roles he plays in groups. He needs his tribe. 

My daughter, two years older, unexpectedly got to be in the tribe she had picked out in advance. She chose this tribe based on how the tent was decorated and whether or not the tribe mother had included stuffed sheep in the decor (she had). She is more reserved, more cautious in groups, and she was glad to find a familiar friend in her tribe. I'm not sure if she sought out new friends, but I do know she felt safe and loved. She leaves tomorrow for her first sleepaway camp, where I'm sure she will cling at first to the one best friend she is going with and then welcome new friends into her group. She needs her tribe.

But tribes are not only important to our children, of course. Some of my fellow bloggers have written about how important it has been to find other people who love books like we do, and I agree. I have also experienced this feeling lately in changing jobs. I have been welcomed into a community that supports and challenges me, and it has meant everything. Later this afternoon, I plan to get together with dear friends, and the month of July will be spent connecting with friends and family in several states. We need our tribes.

As I stood in the midst of our Marketplace this week, with the pungent smoke drifting up from the bread-making station and the sounds of the oboe carrying through the air, as I watched adults greet one another wearing tunics and headdresses, I thought often of all the work they had done to make this possible for my children and children like mine. I thought of all the work they had left undone to be there that week. 

I am so thankful for those who put aside so much of what life demands and said, yes, I will help. I will be part of your tribe.

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