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April 16, 2024
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The Front Porch: An Opportunity to Connect

We celebrated my son’s 11th birthday the other day and 10 days later, my birthday followed. Birthdays can make a person feel a little nostalgic.  Combining my birthday thoughts with the reality of how quickly my kids are growing… well… my nostalgic feelings became downright sentimental and they got me, right in the feels!  I got carried away and caught up in a moment I created for myself; It was great! 

One thought led to another, and I was recalling a memory I had of my grandmother. It was soon after my grandfather had passed away and Granny (she liked everyone to call her that) moved, to be closer to my family.  Granny found a home in a 55+ community called “Friendly Valley”. Friendly Valley was designed to be a retirement community, and back in 1963, when construction began, front porches were still more functional than the decorative facades you see in some neighborhoods today. Many homes in Friendly Valley offered a substantial front porch and residents used them.  

Granny and I were sitting on her front porch when a new neighbor walked up and introduced herself. She welcomed Granny to the neighborhood.  The neighbor brought a potted plant and we all sat together and chatted for a while.  The neighbor was kind and generous sharing her experience and knowledge of the neighborhood.  She told Granny where to shop, the variety of clubs and activities offered, about area restaurants, etc.  The new neighbor seemed to enjoy giving Friendly Valley “lessons” and became even more animated when she shared the who’s who of the neighborhood. Granny had made a new friend, right there on her front porch! Her new friend didn’t want to overstay her welcome, so she politely excused herself, and Granny and I were left to our conversation.  We sat in silence for a few minutes, and then I stood up and let Granny know I had to get going.  If I remember correctly, I had a school activity to attend.  Then, Granny started speaking, and I sat back down, but on the edge of my chair, as if to indicate I just had a little more time. 

In the following minutes, Granny spoke to me, but it was like she was also thinking out loud, to herself.  She mentioned that it seemed like everyone was always in a hurry to get somewhere. It was as if few people really appreciated where they were right now, in the moment. She asked what was so important and why I was in a hurry to rush off. I had been there for over an hour, so I didn’t think I was “rushing off”, nonetheless, I made a split-second decision.  I sat back in my chair and decided to enjoy this time with Granny and listen to what she had to say… and we sat there, together on her front porch. 

She voiced some concerns for my siblings, my cousins, and me.  She said “they” could invent all the video games they wanted, and we could fill our days with TV shows, even with responsibilities, and other meaningful obligations, but they cannot invent more time.  “How are we spending our time”, she asked. Are we spending time or are we investing it? Our conversation continued and her words were filled with the experience and wisdom of a lifetime.  Part of what Granny shared with me was a time in her life when “time” seemed to be more abundant. She described an era when wicker furniture, swings, and hanging plants adorned the front porches of many homes. On those front porches, she explained, impromptu conversations took place between neighbors.  One neighbor spoke and the other listened.  Discussions with neighbors evolved into meaningful moments. In today’s terms, “connection” happened and people were “present” on their front porch. This took place, however, at a time when people seemed to have more time.  I wonder though, did they have more time? Or was it just a different time when people had different priorities?  Regardless, here we are, decades later, still learning about the significance of connection and being present. 

Like Granny said, “They can’t invent more time”; however, in time and with experience, “they” have learned that connection is important.  So much so, that “they” designed connections into communities like Central Park! We’re known for our innovative urban planning and design. Each of the twelve neighborhoods that make up Central Park was set up to make it easier to connect with and be involved with others in the community. Many of us live near a park or open space. From our front porches, we can simply make eye contact, possibly wave, and even smile, at passers-by. Whatever we choose, even in a small way, we can decide to share a moment with another person. For some, that moment can mean so much and your smile can make a difference.

As I drive around the neighborhood, I see front porches of various sizes, shapes, and styles. Each one invites opportunities to connect. Some neighbors already utilize the space. Others may not realize the new potential, which is literally right outside their front door. Sometimes, there is not much more to do than to show up. With the weather getting warmer and for those who work from home, consider working from your front porch. You may be surprised how quickly glances evolve into waves, which transform into “hello”, and before you know it a brief conversation.  In the hustle and bustle of today, where digital screens often dominate our interactions, there is something truly special and refreshing about the simple act of being a neighbor, from the comfort and security of your front porch. It’s a time-honored tradition that hearkens back to a different time, yet its charm and significance remain as important as ever, maybe even more important than ever? A “like” on a social media post is nice, but it cannot replace the warmth that is shared between two people who choose to intentionally smile at each other.

Times change, priorities change, cultures change, almost everything changes.  What doesn’t seem to change, is being human and the need for social connection and belonging. Humans are social beings, and various degrees of connection with others can be a vital element in a healthy balanced life. Building and maintaining relationships, feeling a sense of belonging to a community or group, and experiencing love and support are all crucial aspects of human well-being. How fortunate we are to live in a community where these aspects are built into our neighborhoods.

These front porch connections, however brief, are more than just a quaint tradition; they’re a celebration of community. They provide an opportunity to forge genuine relationships with those who live nearby, fostering a sense of belonging and unity in an increasingly fragmented world. Your front porch can be a place where stories are shared, wisdom is imparted, and friendships are deepened. From the latest neighborhood happenings to tales of days gone by, each conversation adds another layer to the time we share and enjoy as a community, here in Central Park. But it’s not just about the words exchanged; it’s about the shared experience of being present in the moment. It’s about savoring the simple pleasures of life.

I read a great book on connecting with neighbors. It is called, “The Turquoise Table”. It is more than a book; it’s more like a movement. Check out TheTurquoiseTable.com. According to the author, Kristin Schell, loneliness is an epidemic right now, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The Turquoise Table is Kristin’s invitation to you to connect with your neighbors and build friendships. The book is an easy read and filled with great ideas. 

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