We have dear, dear friends doing amazing work planting life in difficult places. We know countless people around the world who are responsible for the lives of multitudes of children in group settings. These are not places known for their quiet, in fact, it’s probably the opposite. Television and music blare in the streets, dining halls are filled with the sounds of children, voices are often way loud and very disruptive, controlled chaos reigns most days.
Where does quiet fit in these places? Is it even possible? Should we even try?
I think we can find room for quiet. I do think it is possible, and I definitely believe we should try. So where to begin?
Let me toss a few thoughts out there, not fully developed, but thoughts nonetheless.
1. We need to be people who know and honor quiet if we ever want to cultivate spaces and times for it. If we can’t find it, the children never will. In the years when I taught school, I read aloud to my children each and every day after lunch. We turned off the lights, they set their heads on their desks, and just listened to great stories. It became part of our culture. As the leader of the community, I set the time aside for it, and slowly it came to be for most of my children, one of their favorite times in the day.
2. We need to remember that quiet is something you learn. For many children it is a foreign language. It has zero value. So if we want it to gain ground, we have to cultivate it. We don’t demand it or force it. We plant the seeds and wait for it to grow.
3. It will take time to grow. It will take discipline and daily routine. It often works best in smaller groups, quietly baking in the kitchen, or listening to a book on tape while coloring.
4. It needs to be watered at the right time – after a game of touch football, in the early mornings on a walk, as the sun is setting. Quiet is very sensitive, it prefers certain times of day, specific environments. Again, it is not something you force. If you believe in it, then the children around you will come to trust in its worth. Speak to it. Point it out to children. Take a listening walk. Read in a quiet voice. Don’t fill every empty space with chatter.
5. Trust in its worth. I think that’s critically important. Children are nurtured and cared for in the whole of the day, all the weaving in and out and in and out. Quiet is like that, it balances activity. It holds us when we’re weary.
More than anything else, let’s not stop trying to create quiet spaces for children. I do believe they need quiet, and so do we.