That is where the tribes go up— the tribes of the Lord— to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel. Psalm 122:4
Every adolescent is on a quest for developing an identity of who they are. In a social media peer driven culture, it is more important than ever for them
In The Element (How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything), Ken Robinson describes how finding an affinity group – a tribe – can have a significant impact on your life. Tribes can have positive or negative impacts (see Groupthink and Fleas).
Robinson chronicles the search by Meg Ryan, an actress, to find her sweet spot in her career, or as Robinson calls it, her Element. It might be hard to believe, but Meg Ryan was petrified of public speaking and was unable to deliver her valedictorian speech in school.
After graduating from college, Meg Ryan considered lots of avenues, including joining the Peace Corp, or spending time “finding herself” by traveling to Europe.
Then she met an acting teacher, Peggy Fury, who got her interested in acting and becoming an artist. She pursued drama and surrounded herself with a group of people who saw the world the way she did and inspired her to be her best.
That was her “tribe” which caused her acting career took off. “What connects a tribe is a common commitment to the thing they feel born to do”, according to Robinson.
Meg Ryan’s story resonated with me. As a parent of a bright and creative son, I was dismayed when he struggled socially at a boarding school. He didn’t seem to fit in and was treated as an outsider. His difficulty with peers was perplexing because he was well liked at his previous schools.
Some students had even become abusive and he was bullied. His solution was to avoid them at any cost, even if it meant not going to class. He was miserable.
During a Thanksgiving vacation, we managed to extract what was bothering him. Sometimes that’s hard because telling parents what is really going on is often difficult for adolescents. We did get to the truth, though, and we (my wife and I) searched for solutions with him.
Over a period of several days, I struggled with what to tell him. I realized that, even at 16 years of age, he needed buy into whatever choice was made. It was his life. I suggested options which included either dropping out, switching to another school or returning home to our local high school.
I asked him if there was any person on the faculty at his school with whom he felt connected. He said he liked his German teacher, someone I had met years before.
I called his German teacher and asked him if he would be take my son under his wing with his away from home. His response surprised me: He said that he had just gone through the same issues with his own daughter and would be glad to help.
My son returned to school, and the rest, as they say, is “history”. The German teacher encouraged my son to get involved in drama at the school. He quickly connected with a group of students who were like him and welcomed him for who he was.
It found the “tribe” that he had been searching for but had looked in all the wrong places. He found creative kids who had similar interests. He still hangs out with some of those friends today, albeit 30 years later.
While my son didn’t pursue acting, his involvement in drama was a key for finding a group of people who influenced and encouraged him when he really needed it. It helped him discover himself which was liberating.
I have always been grateful to my son’s German teacher. In retrospect, I see his role as a mentor: he provided invaluable guidance, support and assistance to my son that we, his parents, could not.
Fast forward to today: my son’s children have all been members of their High School Band which has won the Virginia State Championship for the past consecutive eight years. We joined them a couple of weeks ago at the National Band Championships. They competed against the best of the best.
One takeaway from the band competition was that 96% of kids participating in High School Bands finish school. I attribute that to the “Tribe” effect – belonging to a cohesive group of kids who are similarly inclined. They have all developed a level of discipline as musicians and students.
The challenge here is that the next generation are searching for their “Element” in life. It often may involve something as simple as finding their tribe. In my son‘s case (and in the case of Meg Ryan), the solution may come from someone who is not a parent. A mentor can be an invaluable key to unlocking their identity in life, possibly by connecting them to the right tribe.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Helping your mentee find his “Tribe” may be the single best thing you can do for them.
FURTHER READING: The Element (How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything) Robinson
WORSHIP: Listen to O Holy Night – Love Shines Bright
MentorLink: For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.
SUBSCRIBE: You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address.
Note: the picture above is of the Samburu tribe in Kenya.