On trips to see my daughter and her husband in Amarillo, crossing quite a bit of prairie in the process, I’m reminded of my roots on the central Nebraska prairie. As with all of us, our roots contribute a great deal to our personalities and our view on life. For my part I can readily associate with this quote from Father Val Peter of Boys Town:
Anyone can sit back at the seashore and be inspired because it shouts at you…so do the mountains. But the prairie only whispers. You must listen closely and not miss the message.
I’m also reminded of a conversation over a meal at church with several friends. Many of us agreed that our favorite landscape was wide, sweeping, and flat. While our spouses rolled their eyes, we discovered that we were originally from North Dakota, South Dakota, and, yes, Nebraska. I call our group the Flat Earth Society.
All that makes for a roundabout approach to further insight into my 2017 National Scout Jamboree experience. In the first few days I was absolutely overwhelmed with the nonstop conversation and constant communication. After working as a freelance writer from home the past four years, since the previous Jamboree, it came as quite a challenge.
It shouldn’t have. And, of course, I developed ways of coping with what felt like an onslaught. But it was a big, big change from the very quiet life that I’d adopted since retirement.
To gather myself and to find time for thinking through problems, I took a few walks. I guess the Aussie’s might call it going for a “walkabout.” Not in terms of the original definition—to come of age by fending for myself—but just to find some space to do a bit of thinking rather than constantly responding to the chatter and often the demand for decisions on items of import but also on items that were better left decided by the individual facing the issue.
A big part of my response was due to the fact that I’m an introvert. Growing up on the prairies must have helped shape that approach to life. However it came about—it’s who I am.
I’ve written before on the Power of Introverts. I particularly like Susan Cain’s TED Talk on the subject. The Wall Street Journal also documented some of the factors that make an introvert. Here’s a few of their highlights regarding introverts:
- Careful thinkers who look before they leap.
- Usually only speak when they have something to say, after they’ve processed the information internally.
- Comfortable with independent thought and action.
- Need solitude to balance out social time.
- Steady and balanced presence during turbulent times.
- Sharp observational skills.
- Capacity for active listening and connecting with people on an intimate level.
- Willing to put other people and their vision in the spotlight.
- Desire for focus and to develop a depth of understanding and mastery over a topic.
This short list prompts further thoughts into what I experienced in the lead up to the Jamboree. The planning and work on setting up the operation as well as collecting all the equipment worked well. It was, by and large, an independent task for me with a few observations from others. It was tough to engage staff members in that process as everyone was so very busy on so many tasks in their personal and professional lives.
I did rediscover my one-on-one management approach that asks a few questions, listens intently, and makes connections on how to move things forward. But what I struggled with was, as noted above, putting other people and their vision in the spotlight. In most cases, I couldn’t find their vision because they weren’t engaged in the Jamboree until a few months prior to or, in most cases, once they were on site.
I ran across yet another quote this morning. This one from C.S. Lewis:
We live in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.
He wrote this in the early 20th century. I wonder what he’d think of our communication saturated world of the early 21st century.
It is just like the prairies: if you want to hear the message, you need to listen for the whispers. That takes quiet and solitude, something that’s in limited supply but well worth seeking out.
For further thoughts, and great photos, on the prairies I recommend Jason Morehead and his article I Prefer the Prairie. If, on the other hand, you’ve heard enough about introverts, I recommend Chelsea Fagan and her listicle 21 Reasons I’m Tired of Hearing About Introverts.
One more thought for your PathForeWord. Make that path over the prairies, at least once in a while.