My Tribal Language


We were discussing the use of the word ‘tribe” in my writing group the other day. What is a tribe in today’s world? Do you have a tribe?

This set me off on a bit of research because I was curious. The definition according to Merriam -Webster:

1) a : a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations together with slaves, dependents, or adopted strangers
    b : a political division of the Roman people originally representing one of the three original tribes of ancient Rome
2) a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest

It seems pretty apparent that in today’s word, we think of a tribe as those in a social group who are brought together by common interests and beliefs, people who think like we do. But how do we know what people really think?

I don’t really feel like people always say what they are thinking which led me to get interested in challenging myself to meet people to talk about important stuff because as I age, I find I feel a bit distressed about addressing important stuff. If not now, when? If not me, who? So there I go. The 11 discussion points within The Red Boot Coalition movement spoke loudly to me.

So I started two meetings and as we worked the first step, WE MATTER, I was struck by people’s bravery. These people are my tribe, I kept thinking. They are willing to be open and honest and just let their words settle into those who are present. And then in my second group I thought, WOW, this conversation is completely different from the other groups and it proves that perspectives are SO essential. We don’t think alike even if we think we think alike and then, more often than not, we have the SAME fears but they their outsides look different. My kid is failing so I must be a failure, people don’t know me for anything than what I do, I don’t have a job so who am I now?

How can I matter if I don’t treat myself like I matter? All of these statements or versions of them came up from wildly different places and underneath it all is the whisper that everyone from everywhere wants to believe deeply that their very existence is important to someone in some way.


I have been trying to carry that with me in the last two weeks. How do I show myself I matter? how do I show others I matter? how do I show my family they matter? how do I move in a way every single day that speaks I matter,You matter, We all matter.

It’s hard but simple. It’s real and the most important thing to me now.

My daughter is having some tough times. We sought some help and when the door closed on a most recent doctor’s visit, I fell apart. The doctor asked, “Why do you have tears?”

She asked my daughter, “Why do you have tears?”

Do you ever think about the place from where your tears come? It was hard to get real, but we did. We spoke and she helped us see that in the end it boiled down to how much these troubles MATTER to each of us in different ways. Same team, I was thinking. We are on the same team, in the same tribe, and we have to go through it together showing each other and ourselves that we matter.

So here is the truth, my truth.

I am mostly an open book and I can’t think of any other way to be than to say what I think. Not everyone is and for a long time, I felt impatient with those who just can’t do it…can’t get to the real, can’t dig in and just say what they feel. But if I am going to walk my talk, I have to be open with those who seem closed. A closed person matters just as much as I do. I have to meet them where they are and accept their offerings and metaphorically hold their hand in the same way I held my daughter’s. We are on this journey of life. Let us take it together. I will accept what you can give.

Not everyone in my meetings has practiced their life as an open book. These people in the Red Boot tribe are offering wild and bold bravery. They are scared and compassionate and willing and that is enough and so much more than I could have hoped.

I don’t know where it will all go. I don’t know what will happen. I do know it’s expanding my definition of tribe from people who think like I do to people who are brave enough to step out of their comfort zone a bit, and offer a little piece of themselves.

When I imagine a world FULL of people doing just this, I start to see a kinder, gentler, more robust way of making lasting differences in our world. It is that lofty vision that I will hold when my the numbers are small and my enthusiasm wanes.

And then I will think of my daughter and our tearful exchange and blatant honesty and wonder if these differences I am seeking might already be at work.

P.S. GO start a meeting. ANYONE ANYWHERE CAN DO it! HERE are the discussion steps. HERE is the manual.