I attended a concert at a new venue this week. It was a beautiful setting in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Immense rock walls framed the large meadow, and a river ran rapidly on the edge. There were food and drink vendors and hundreds of people in hats, flowing dresses, floral shirts, shorts, and sandals. I thought I walked into a mini Woodstock. The headliners did not begin until dark, and the weather could not have been more beautiful—no rain or wind with temps in the low 80s.
It was refreshing to see the young and the older sitting on blankets and in lawn chairs visiting, laughing, leaning back, shutting their eyes, or standing and swaying to the band beat and the soloist’s crystal voice.
This same week, a friend loaned me a book—”TRIBE On Homecoming and Belonging,” by Sebastian Junger. It spoke to the value of cohesive groups where people had common interests and looked out for each other.
As I think about what in our culture offers the most effective mental health benefits, belonging to and caring about our chosen groups or tribes is high on the list. Families, friends, ethnic communities, military platoons, political parties, churches, work companions, sporting events, and concerts are just a few examples of like-minded people coming together to enjoy, support, and protect each other.
We need tribes because we need people. Like many seniors, I live alone and no longer work, so I need to put more effort into building relationships because they are no longer automatic in my daily routine. I have Lucy, and she is often my primary tribe, which is better than none but not the same as belonging to groups of people. Groups where discussions are rich, ideas are shared, and common goals and ideals are discussed without fear are essential for society to function and thrive—not just survive.
What are your tribes? Do you have an artist’s or writer’s community, church family, book club, bridge or exercise group, an HOA, coffee or wine-time friends, travel or sports buddies? The possibilities are endless, but it takes the initiative to reach out, connect, and stay involved. Sitting on the sidelines and observing might be better than watching TV alone, but it isn’t enough; we need the belonging piece. We need the human connection—the challenge—the stimulation—the acceptance.
Going to the concert and observing the various tribes was refreshing and entertaining. Still, the value came from planning with friends, driving together, remembering our lawn chairs, and laughing and chatting until we returned home. Shared experiences are the best, not just for the memories but for the benefits.
Until the next time: Live while you live
Jennifer Goble, Ph.D., LPC, is the author of “My Clients…My Teachers,” and the blogger and writer of Rural Women Stories: www.ruralwomenstories.com.
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