One of the most unique, interesting, and essential elements of our community at Macomber Center is the way in which people of all ages interact with each other. In work and in games, organized and spontaneous, you will see little kids, big kids, and adults being together in a way that is quite unusual in this too-frequently age-segregated society. This is a valuable aspect of our community. The Center is a place where all of us can learn how to coexist with younger and older people in constructive, rewarding ways. Every day there is the opportunity to learn patience, self-awareness, often kindness and thoughtfulness, self-confidence, self-esteem, listening skills, and the ability to communicate clearly, through being part of a community where people are at many different stages of development.
I see it as valuable for older kids to be in a position of being the expert, when seen through the eyes of a younger child. Younger kids look up to and emulate older kids in a more direct and focused way than they do with adults; these older kids are what they aspire to become – the next imaginable step in their life development. This is such an instinctive response from younger to older kids – anyone who has watched a young child respond to older siblings in a family no doubt is aware of how powerful the urge is to be like and do what the older child is being or doing.
When children spend the majority of their time with kids their own age, as they do in a public school classroom, or an organized sports setting, this ability to learn from and teach to older and younger kids is much reduced. Certainly there is value in working with and being with same-age people, but I think much is missing from a scene where that is the sole focus. Watching sports being played at the Center provides one of the most immediately visible areas where you can see age mixing in action. Whether it is a game of four square or ultimate frisbee, capture-the-flag or back-and-forth tag, soccer or basketball, the seven- year-olds are right in there with the sixteen-year-olds, copying actions, practicing, practicing, practicing to repeat a move made by an older kid, being encouraged along the way by the more experienced players. When teams are needed for a game, sides are chosen to reflect fairly equal match-ups of talent, combining young and old, experienced and novice players. Because that is what in the long run makes the activity fun for everyone.
Indoor age mixing happens all the time – we are a small community, and opportunities abound for such interactions. At the Center you will see older kids and younger kids engaged together in many different activities, ranging from working the Wednesday Grilled Cheese sale (a teen doing the money taking, a younger kid putting the straws in each root-beer float cup), learning new dance moves for an upcoming show from the experienced dancer who has been performing since she was the age of her youngest students, sitting next to a big kid on the couch while a story is read aloud, or having a conversation about the latest maneuvers and worlds and characters in minecraft, popular with many ages.
One lovely element of age mixing happens at the Center whenever a baby or toddler arrives on the scene – delighted attention throughout the room focuses on the young one, and I sometimes imagine how different people’s lives might be if we were all greeted in this way when showing up – with such unfiltered delight, total acceptance and immediate, full attention to the being we are at that moment in time. I witnessed a delightful scene recently, when teens Ben and Calvin were working on a calculus problem together, at a low table in front of our couches. Molly, Amy Anderson’s young daughter who dropped in mid afternoon (with her mom and sister) decided they were in need of help – the photos below describe the scene better than words can!