On Tuesday 29th March, while eating my breakfast and reading The Newcastle Herald, in the Business section I came across an article, “Having the right tribe is key to success”, written by Belinda Smith, a freelance writer and former Telstra Young Businesswoman of the Year.

It seems that she captures in this article some of what I have been writing about over the past month, regarding how we understand ourselves as a people/community. What attracted my attention was the use of the word ‘tribe’. Frequently, we Catholics refer to ourselves as a tribe, and of course I referred to tribe when I wrote about the Indigenous people a couple of weeks ago.

This is what Belinda wrote:

Sigmund Freud told us “there is only love and work”.

If that’s true, then as we continue to explore what work/life balance means, our tribes are critical to our success. By tribes I mean the family, friends and colleagues we consciously surround ourselves with. The ones we turn to for support, advice and nurturing. The ones we choose to be with in good times and bad.

Throughout our lives – including our working lives – we move through different tribes. Our sandbox tribe from school days was likely based on geography: you’re in the same place and time as me, let’s be friends!

Our teen tribe was probably based more on common interests: we enjoy the same subjects, rock bands or hobbies. Our adult tribe might be based on a shared profession, industry or entrepreneurial spirit.

The most successful people I know – those who are nailing love and work – seem to have the best tribes.

They consistently surround themselves with people who uplift and inspire, live by agreed tribal rituals such as regular brainstorming, sharing of opportunities and opening hearts and minds to new thinking and experiences. They fiercely protect each other in times of trouble, when under attack from other tribes, and have their back when going into battle.

In practical terms, identifying your tribe means taking a good hard look at the 10 or 15 people you spend most of your time with.

Consider the sum of their generosity, kindness, nurturing spirit and growth journeys and that will give you an insight into whether that’s a good fit for you.

Sometimes, the answer will frighten you – you might need a new tribe.

Hopefully, it’ll give you cause to be grateful.

Either way, being a part of the right tribe will certainly set you on the path to success.

Not so long ago, the church formed part of that ‘right tribe’. Its story, traditions, rituals, values and people were those which formed a network of wise people around families. It was essential for my Mum and Dad to be surrounded by those who shared the same belief system. Similarly for Allen and I; we were happy to have our children connect with other families of similar values. We will be listening to the accounts of the Acts of the Apostles over these coming weeks of Easter time and we will hear the witness of those who knew Jesus and wish to spread his words and deeds. Thomas, the doubting one, became a great ambassador of Jesus and His Way.

I came across the following reflection, Break Open the Tomb in my reading during the week:

Lord of Easter's Promise,
I live in faith of the Resurrection,
but such is the nature of my faith
that so much of me remains entombed.
Break open the tomb.

Where I've buried my compassion, break open the tomb.
Where I've buried my sense of mercy, break open the tomb.
Where I've buried my humility, break open the tomb.
Where I've buried my humanity, break open the tomb.
Where I've buried my love for my Heavenly Father, break open the tomb.
Where I've buried my sense of joy, break open the tomb.
Where I've buried my willingness to forgive, break open the tomb.

Lord, in you I've found a Saviour no grave can withstand.
Help me to roll away this stone
And find the miracle of new life
That I may live more fully in your saving grace.

I wonder if we are bold enough and courageous enough to be a witness to the Resurrection of Christ as the first disciples were? While catching up with our children on the Gold Coast for the weekend it was good to be affirmed by those at Mass because we took four of our grandchildren with us. They were pleased to see us there sharing the story of our tribe with our younger family members.

On the plane back to Newcastle, I was reading A View from the Ridge by Morris West. The chapter title, ‘Keepers of the Dreaming’ seemed most apt for this message and I came across the following paragraph:

They understood that somehow they, too, had to throw off the burden of their own history and make a new beginning. They all agreed: the symbol of a Dreamtime was a foundation on which they could build. They grasped readily the notion that while our symbols – personal, national or tribal – were not identical, they did express a truth common to us all: we issue from a mystery and we depart into a mystery. If we wish to live peacefully between the beginning and the end, we have each to receive from the others the gift of whatever our understanding can offer. (page 44)

In 1986, Morris West had been invited by the parish priest of Alice Springs to help prepare for the visit of Pope John Paul II. West was not keen to do so but under the persistence of the parish priest, spent some days with the communities that formed Alice Springs at that time. The paragraph above comes after West visited the “Keeper of the Dreaming” for all his people, because of the devastating effects of
 alcohol on the tribal men. “The man who was coming, the Pope of Rome, was also the Keeper of a Dreaming. His dreaming, however, was only two thousand years old. The dreaming of these people went back at least forty thousand years, and possibly even longer. Was any union, was any understanding, even possible?”

I hope over these weeks we are all able to keep on sharing our story because the place God calls us to is the place where our deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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