“…at school you might have been prodded to come ‘out of your shell’ - that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same.” -Susan Cain
First, a disclaimer: I am an introvert. I am “slow to warm up,” as they say, and I tend to be an observer, watching for a while before participating. Recently, I picked up Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and I find myself with a new appreciation for the social dynamics of our lovely community here. At Macomber Center, kids are free to “stay in their shells” as much as they please, and can work (and play) in their own way, at their own pace. Group participation is not required, and kids who prefer to spend most of their time quietly in the corner are still very much a part of the social fabric here. They are as vital to our community as the kids who rally everyone together for a game of Capture the Flag. Our introverts at Macomber blossom and thrive here because they are free to enter and exit social activity on their own terms. In reading Quiet, I am reminded of how rare it is (especially for children) to find a community or social setting in which the need to retreat into a book or video game or other solitary space is understood and respected. Children are often expected to spend a majority of their time in social activities, participating in group singing in preschool, working with partners on school work, etc. The persistent idea that working in a group is somehow superior to working alone can leave us introverts wondering if there must be something wrong with us. But there is nothing wrong with needing solitude, and many of our most revered leaders and thinkers were introverts. Spending time alone or in quiet, thoughtful activity is simply our natural way of finding rest and renewal, and our means of pursuing creative, productive work. As I continue to read about introversion, it is remarkable to notice how our community at Macomber recognizes the importance of letting kids learn for themselves when to seek solitude and when to seek camaraderie, and in doing so has cultivated an environment that acknowledges the value of both. The old adage, “better together,” can ring true even for introverts, as long as no one is trying to yank us out of our much-needed shells.