Language matters. This is something I strive to remember in every interaction, whether it be verbal or written. And, this is why, when the question was posed to me as to whether the term “tribe” was the appropriate word to be using in my work, I paused and spent a bit of time reflecting on it.

Merriam-Webster defines a tribe as, “a social group composed chiefly of numerous families, clans, or generations having a shared ancestry and language.” The way I think about this is like an eco-system where there is interdependency among the tribe members. And, that really isn’t what I’m talking about in the work I do. Rarely, if ever, will you actually assemble the individuals or will there be interactions among them.

When I speak of this group, I am talking about those trusted individuals that you can turn to who help you think through where you are, where you want to go, and how you might get there. They are the truth-tellers, the cheerleaders. They offer tough love and compassion when it’s needed. They’ll hold up the mirror for you so that you can take a good hard, honest look at yourself.

So, as I pondered the term that would aptly capture this, I’ve come to the word, “lamplighters.” This term harkens back to the 1700s when individuals were responsible for caring for and lighting the lamps that illuminated the streets. These individuals were well respected and trusted to help create safety as the person navigated their route. My intention in using this term is that it signifies the trusted individuals in your life who help to illuminate your path for you.

And, I’d like to take a moment to thank those lamplighters in my life who continue to help me evolve my thinking.