chapter  11
12 Pages

Teamwork with Unnatural Systems: Collaborating with Our Colleagues

Networking is an interpersonal operation. Struggling and organizing among and on behalf of people is an emotional process. The anger, disappointment, and frustration of rebuff, the jealousy and competitiveness driven by funding allocations, and the soul-searching that accompanies surrender to the group purpose are examples . . . Yet, opening a new community shelter, developing a needed outreach program, or signing a written agreement to expedite referrals of suicidal adolescents are the tangible rewards for the effort. (Aaronson, Bradley, & Cristina, 1990, p. 151)


“All my relations” is the English equivalent of a phrase familiar to most Native peoples in North America. It may begin or end a prayer or a speech or a story, and . . . is at first a reminder of who we are and of our relationship with both our family and our relatives. It also reminds us of the extended relationship we share with all human beings. . . . More than that, “all my relations” is an encouragement for us to accept the responsibilities we have within this universal family by living our lives in a harmonious and moral manner (a common admonishment is to say of someone that they act as if they have no relations). (King, 1990, p. ix)

My immediate family is small, but my extended family network is large and complex-as my friend Martha would say, “rich.” It is fur-

ther enriched by traditions of adoption and fostering. The network is replete with close relatives, whose doings are of consuming interest and importance to me even though I rarely see them in person; and distant relatives, some whom I know surprisingly well and many whom I have never met. All of them are made real and important to me by the fabric of history and anecdote (and let’s face it, gossip) woven with telephone, e-mail, snail mail, and too-infrequent meetings. The weaving is supported by common threads of identity and of love and loyalty to our elders, both here and gone. Further strengthening comes from common projects and rituals, some joyous, some deeply poignant. And of course are the precious conservators, who do the work of connecting that keeps the fabric vibrant for us all. All of this makes us a perfectly ordinary family.