it takes a village…and then a tribe

It takes a village…and then a tribe.

Do you have a tribe?

I am sure you’ve heard of the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child.”  This proverb, generally considered to be of African origin, means that it takes an entire community to raise a child.  A child has the best ability to become a healthy adult if the entire community takes an active role in contributing to the rearing of the child. 

I can remember my village when I was growing up.  The reality is, you can’t raise a kid on your own.  You need your support network.  Growing up, my younger sister Poppy and I had aunties and uncles, we’d go to our beloved Nanna and Porpor (my Chinese grandma)’s house after school while Mum and Dad were still working and in school holidays.  We had kids we played with at school whose parents would come around to watch the rugby while we OD’d on sugar and climbed trees.  We had family friends.  We had Mum’s good friends who we called “aunty” even though they weren’t our real aunties.  We had the Mums and families of our netball or other sports teams who we would car pool with and go away to tournaments with.  We had our neighbours – we’d play with the kids on the street shooting hoops while the parents were inside cooking dinner or doing other parent-y stuff.  We had friend’s parents who were like second Mums and took us away on summer holidays with their families.  We had our community and everyone played some role or another, small or large, in our upbringings.

But what about once you’re no longer a child?  Maybe you don’t need to be brought up anymore.  But you still need a community.  You still need your people.  You need a tribe.

I have a tribe.  But the hardest thing about my tribe, is how wide-spread it is.  I have my people, I have my support network, but they are spread all over the world now, divided and separated by geography.  Thankfully the age of the internet enables us to keep in touch, and I still speak to my “work wife” whom I met while working in Africa several years ago every day although we are on separate continents.  But when your tribe members are so far away, they can’t hug you when you need to be hugged.  They can’t drag your arse to the gym when you need some of those happy exercise endorphins.  They can’t babysit your kids when you need a few hours of breathing space.  So it’s important to also have your “here-tribe”.  People who live near you and who are available to you when you need that little bit of extra support.  When shit hits the fan.

My “work wife”, Francine, who I met when we were both working in Eritrea.  Here we are pictured on holiday in Istanbul
Because when you strike a bad patch or go through a rough period, when find yourself unable to pick yourself up (which I did last year – and I will share more of this with you as our blog progresses) it’s OK.  You don’t need to pick yourself up.  Because your tribe does.  I remember calling Bec around this time last year.  Her response?  “I’m booking you a flight.  You’re coming home with me.”  My friends often ask me how I picked myself up after hitting rock bottom.  My answer is simple: “I didn’t. My people did.”  At the start at least.

In Hamilton, my new “here-tribe” suddenly consisted of my best friend and her family.  Her children would hug me and melt my heart and yank me into the present moment.  Her man came home and dished out hugs – “do you need one too, Val?”  My tribe consisted of the students and teachers at the yoga studio that I joined.  Fellow yogis who offered me support by helping to create an environment where nothing could touch me – emotionally.  Friends of Bec – these girls immediately befriended me; came around for cup after cup of tea, invited me to their baby showers, invited me to their girls’ nights out.  Offered to travel to the South Island with us when we went down to re-decorate my house in preparation for sale.

When I moved to Auckland at the start of this year, I recognised the importance of building and maintaining robust tribe for myself.  It’s not something that can happen overnight.  I’ve still got my existing tribe but I do need a “here-tribe” and I’ve been fortunate enough once again to acquire tribe members through existing friends, as well as through new relationships with new people.  It’s a work in progress and it’s important to remember that it isn’t something you build and then have forever.  It’s constantly in flux, requires maintenance, and you must remember that people may come into and leave your tribe at different times.  And it’s only as strong as the relationships it is comprised of.

Have you got a tribe?  Who is in your tribe?  Do you talk to your neighbours?  If your neighbour’s brother or son or mother died, would you take them a casserole and sit with them for hours?  Are they part of your tribe?  Do you go to church or play a sport?  Are the other church-goers or members of your sports team part of your tribe?  Do you have a tribe member who you can dump your kids on when there’s an emergency?  Who will help you lug boxes and unload trailers when you’re moving house?  Who will check your mail and feed your cat when you’re away?  Does your tribe have a good mix of people?  Males and females?  Old and young?

It’s essential to also remember that as much as your tribe is there for you, you’ve gotta there for them too.  So just as importantly – are you someone else’s tribe member?  Will you get them out for brunch when they need to be extradited from the house?  Drop in for a drink when they need social interaction?  Take chicken soup to, when they’re sick?

Have you got a tribe?  Who is in your tribe?

A burden shared is a burden halved.  Laughter is best when shared with someone else.  We all need support at times.  Make sure you have your people and your tribe, my friends.

More later.  We’ve got so much more to cover!  But one post at a time 🙂







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