By Jen Macnab
Who is your tribe?
How do you even begin to answer this question? Does it include your family? Colleagues? Political party? Religious affiliation?
Often, there is not an excellent one-word answer because the response requires a conversation. And the response we provide, or the dialogue we have, can either ignite feelings of unity or create the illusion of separation.
For example, what is your religious tribe?
Let me think about that...
Well, we have attended a Catholic church and found beauty in the liturgical. For many years, I attended Foursquare, where I found power in the pentecostal. Then I worked for a quaker institution where I found tranquility in the contemplative. Yet I am not entirely sure that only one of these is "my tribe."
I also heard the tribe question when launching a blog site. After all, narrowing and defining a tribe can help to market and message to a niche. We are asked to determine the parameters by considering who will read and follow.
In our culture, we tend to attach ourselves and our identity, to various "tribes." Often we then further delineate within the tribe using an org chart to define positions narrowly. And yet I wonder if the charts and tribes contribute toward illusions of hierarchy and separation.
Regardless of the context, I can never quite articulate my box. Every time I hear the tribe question, my best response is a pause followed by "Ummm… humanity?"
The answer never seems adequate. It feels like a cop-out, almost like I am dodging the question. And yet I have not found a better qualifier.
In the current season, tribes are mixing in new and beautiful ways, particularly evidenced in, and through, companioning. After all, we have not been able to gather in our large, traditional communities but creative one-to-one, or small group, encounters are surfacing. As we walk with others, knowing them and being known deeply, the tribal walls crumble.
The other day, while out on a jog, I noticed two ducks crossing the street in front of me coming to join me on "my" sidewalk. To give them space, I started around them by moving to the other side of the road where an elderly lady was walking her dog. I was cautious to keep a bit of a physical distance from her, and yet her presence welcomed a conversation.
"They want to come to see you," offered the lady regarding the movement of the two ducks. "Look at how they love each other."
"Isn't it a gift to watch them?" I responded. "It's the little things that bring joy these days, right?"
But then I was completely caught off guard by her response. She started crying.
"Oh, it is a gift that we get to enjoy these ducks on this spring day," she wept and apologized. I slowed to listen and offer encouragement.
Walking with her was a precious moment. A kairos moment. Although I was not sure I had much to offer, I attempted comforting assurance. "Yes, it is a gift to watch them," I replied. "And it will be alright. This, too, shall pass."
"Do you think so?"
"Yes," I said. "This, too, shall pass, and we will reach the other side. It will be ok."
"Oh, thank you," she sobbed. "I guess I needed to hear that today."
At that point, I was fighting back the tears behind my sunglasses as we walked together for part of the neighborhood block. I wanted to ask more about her story and perhaps I should have lingered longer.
Nevertheless, our brief encounter was enough for me to see the Imago Dei embodied in this precious woman. We were like the two ducks, waddling together down the road.
Waddling with others is the invitation of this season. As we step together, we discover the temple revealed in and radiating through humanity rather than a building. We witness the Imago Dei in each person, and we define our tribe in a much broader context.
Back to the story of the woman in the neighborhood...
I do not know her political affiliation, religion, age, or marital status. Come to think of it, I never learned her name, and I am not entirely sure I will ever cross paths with her again.
But I know she is in my tribe.
Jen Macnab is an avid reader, writer, and runner who resigned from a full-time career in higher education to pursue balance and simplicity. Jen launched Toward Thriving, LLC last year to support her freelance work with local businesses and nonprofits. She can be found at jenmacnab.com.