What do Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Christine Aquilera, Ryan Gosling and Annette Funicello have in common?

If you guessed that they were Mouseketeers you would be right (yeah, I know, it was a pretty easy question). But whether you were in the “club” or not, joining an affinity group has long been a way to find people with common interests, acquire support for projects, and grow as a person.

Family in NM by F4 1996When my kids were young and my hair was big and my tights were white, MOPS was my tribe of choice. We had five babies in seven years and the Air Force moved us eleven times in thirteen years.  My sanity needed support from other young moms and a safe (and affordable) place to get a break from said babies on a regular basis. In fact, I often found a local MOPS before we found a church. These other moms gave us baby showers and brought me meals when I had those little ones. I could even leave with a craft I made at the group. “This is what I did today!” I bragged to Bob,holding up a rattan wall ornament. I actually finished a task at MOPS, amidst the chaos of the thundering Kay herd. They understood. I belonged.

But MOPS wasn’t just a place to receive, I could also give in that setting. Sometimes, I was the one bringing another mom a meal or hosting a baby shower or encouraging a table of weary baby mamas. Plus, it was a place where I began the trial and error of becoming the public speaker that I am today.

Your tribe, the group you meet with on a regular basis, should be a safe setting where you give and get and give some more (it is more blessed to give than receive). I also plugged into PWOC at the base chapel in those younger years and took studies on how to be a better wife, mom, friend and leader. There were opportunities to teach,  lead and have new experiences. After raising a herd of successful millennials and celebrating a 28 year marriage, I don’t regret the time invested in learning those skills. Along the way, I was still fortunate enough to launch a writing, speaking and media career as well. So it’s not as if giving to family took away from individual dreams.

An effective group will give you energy and not drain you. It may have challenges (as any organization that deals with people is prone to experience) but it will be worth it. When the organization that you voluntary decide to join drains your reserves, instead of energizing you, then it may be time to screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-3-52-06-pmreevaluate your participation.

Today, ShopTalk Toastmasters is an organization that brings me energy and great joy. As President of this club, I frequently have leadership challenges and play the role of peacemaker, mentor, and cheerleader. Occasionally, I’m also the designated “bo-hiney kicker” when someone needs to get out of their comfort zone and try something scary (like a contest, an officer role or table topics). My husband says my face lights up when I talk about our club. We have members that drive 50+ miles each way to attend–and we try to make it worth it for those commuters. They are like family. They are my tribe.

Another affinity group that I love is USAFA admissions where The World’s Greatest Fight Pilot and I engage in “empty nest activities” like helping students who want to attend the Air Forcusafa-mccormick-bros-sweet-treats-apr-2016e Academy. We assist them in learning what they need to do in order to get there. In three years, I’ve seen a dozen young people I’ve worked with placed at USAFA, USMA, USMMA, and USNA. They call and write the Kays from their academies and they make us proud–our “kids” from different parents.

I just got back from Washington DC where I serve on MFAN, Military Family Advisory Network, a diverse group of spouse and family leaders from all branches and backgrounds who have a common goal of improving the lives of military and veteran mfan-oct-2016families. They’re making their mark through MilCents and other learning modules that improve the quality of life of MilFams. We take out the “whine” and put in the “work” to come up with life changing programs that matter to those who serve on the battlefield in on the homefront.

Those are a few (but not all) of my fave groups.

Who is in YOUR tribe?

Ellie Kay

©2016-2020 Ellie Kay


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