The Anatomy of our Tribe



What makes a strong tribe? This is a question I have been asked by several people over the past several months. Another is, how can we make our tribe stronger? Now that is a great question. My 13-year-old son Thomas is both a great inspiration and soundboard for me. I strongly believe all wars would end and our world would know peace and happiness if children ran the place (at least until the adults got sick of eating mac and cheese every night for dinner). I asked him the question a few weeks ago and I have been having a think on this article ever since. With a slight tweak to the question above, let me ask again. How can we make our tribes stronger. We all belong to many tribes. Our tribes of family. Our tribes of community. Employers, friends, sports affiliations, etc. How can we make those tribes stronger?

Let’s think about anatomy for a minute. If the leaders of our tribes are the brains (present company may be excluded from this analogy), then the spine, the thing that literally holds us together, the captain of the skeletal system is our community. We are where we come from, aren’t we? We identify as where we live. We can talk about other parts of our tribal anatomy all we want, but if our spine is out of alignment (shout out to you Dr. Stacey Myint in Dexter. Thank you for keeping me and my chiropractic needs straight and upright) we can’t truly function at 100% can we?

Our community. The physical space we call home. Whether it’s going out for a night of entertainment at The Purple Rose in Chelsea or the Encore in Dexter, or out to eat at the dozens of great restaurants we have in all the communities this great paper serves, or needing a bolt or nut at the local hardware store where they know your name when you walk in, a strong community is a strong spine for our tribal body. Getting back to the question above. How can we make our tribes stronger? I can offer several great answers. Get involved. Donate time. Meet your town and city leaders. Go to a schoolboard meeting. Volunteer. Advocate for more joy every day. All great answers, but not the best in my humble opinion. In this tribal guy’s humble opinion, the number 1 way we can keep our local tribes strong is by supporting local tribes. That is to say:

Buy Local!

Sadly, my son has aged out of community little league. I still get the emails and this year he really wants to umpire. He can’t wait. Those emails take me back to parades and t-ball. Dirty uniforms and making sure the lawn chairs are in the car for the next 2 months. It also got me thinking about those uniforms a little differently.

The sponsors on the back.

I don’t remember seeing Amazon or Wal-Mart sponsoring any of our local little league teams over the years. I don’t remember seeing any little league team photos when I went to a big box store. You know where I do see them? Every small business I have ever stepped foot in in our communities. I see posters supporting local teams. I see team pictures proudly framed of little league teams sponsored throughout the years. Buying and supporting local is my idea of a healthy spine for my tribe. I needed a few ‘hardware-ish’ things recently and went to Hackney’s in Dexter. I probably paid a couple dollars more than I would have at the orange or blue place. But you know what I saw when I was there? No less than 5 local high school students working. I saw people saying good morning and meaning it to the people who came and went. I heard first names. I saw a healthy tribe. I don’t want to endorse any small business over any other here. That is not this author’s purpose or intent.

I support them all.

I. Support. Them. All. I love our local tribes and the communities we call home. I choose to advocate and search for joy and happiness every day. For my money (literally) it all starts and ends locally. Please, shop local, support local and smile local!

Steve Gwisdalla is a Life Coach, small business consultant and Chief Local Business Currency Supporter at BetterPlace Consulting based in Dexter, MI. Need a local business referral? Reach out to him at

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