The Moken, a tribe who live on isolated islands in the Indian Ocean, know very well that kinship matters. When the 2004 tsunami struck, killing thousands, it was kinship, native wisdom and the power of narrative that spared the Moken from a similar fate. Stories, passed down for generations, foretold the appearance of a "seventh wave," so when the warning signs appeared, they fled to safety uphill.

Sadly, their story made them celebrities, destroying their former isolation and altering their lifestyles forever. It was noted their journey was especially painful because they are a shy people, unused to the spotlight. Overnight, they went from "maritime nomads to living museum exhibits."

Those of us hearing the story of the Moken experience wonder, sadness and envy, as well as a myriad of other emotions. If forced to choose, we would not willingly give up our comfortable lifestyles, yet there is a longing within us that craves the kind of kinship the Moken culture cherished. Kinship that rejoices in its sharing of ancestral wisdom and the knowledge that every neighbor is your kin. Connection. Belonging. Continuity. What's not to envy?

"You are the sky. Everything else, it's just the weather." - Pema Chödrön

We are not the Moken. We are who we are, products of our own unique cultures. Every demographic criterion we use to describe ourselves also places us into co-cultures or kinship with others. That is our reality and this is what we honor when we go in search of who we are, where we came from and to whence we will return.

As the poet Rumi wrote:

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from,
and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.

Yet, we are the Moken. Kinship connects us--as human beings, as creatures attuned to the natural world around us, as people who grow up laughing, crying, bleeding, sinning, forgiving, desiring, sharing, teaching and learning. We are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, as they are ours. This month, traditionally celebrated in our culture as the month of love, we can renew our vow to connect with others and rejoice that we are as united in our differences as we are in our commonalities.

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Madelaine Landry is a online communication instructor and the owner of an emerging business, Listen Hear. Communication has been her passion and her job for over two decades. As a trainer, teacher and writer, her wish is to share how and why we communicate as humans, how it satisfies our our physical, identity, practical and social needs. She shares a 170-acre ranch in southwest Louisiana with her husband, cattle, pigs, chickens, ducks, dogs, cats, donkeys and honeybees.

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This article is part of our series on the theme of Kinship.

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