The first time I heard the phrase “front porch living” was in grad school. I was getting a degree with an emphasis in urban education, so many of my courses looked at ways people in the inner city lived that would be different from a suburban point of view. (This was just as Denver was beginning to gentrify its urban neighborhoods, so I’m sure many of these cultural phenomena have changed in the recent years.)
A neighborhood with strong front porch living often doesn’t have an attached garage or they may have small backyards. Neighbors congregate out front – they see each other’s comings and goings and often stop to chat. Because much of life takes place out front, there are not may secrets (for good or bad) and there is much more opportunity to know the community.
I loved the idea of knowing my neighbors, of doing life together, and of living out front so we can interact in a more relaxed, natural way.
At our old house, we were located on a frontage road, so we had no across the street neighbors. And while our road was quiet, it was right next to a busy thoroughfare, which meant I couldn’t let Daisy or Bea roam out front without being with them. Our neighbors were all friendly, but we only knew a handful.
Now, we have a quaint, fenced-in front yard. At first, I wondered if the fence would be seen as a barrier to our neighbors but the opposite has proven true. I’ll open the front door while making dinner and Bea and Daisy will roam outside, saying (or barking) hello to all who pass. We have a glider out front, so I’ll often sit and watch them play. This has led to many conversations with our neighbors and even to an across-the-street five year old inviting himself into our playroom while I chatted with his dad. It’s been amazing! Already, we have chatted with most neighbors and we’re just entering lovely hangout outside weather.
I’m looking forward to this summer of building community in a way that involves spontaneity, casual conversations, and building relationships that lead to deeper connections. We’ve already talked about putting our vegetable garden out front instead of in the back, of building a Little Free Library, and of hosting a block party. Our fenced yard seems to be full of potential for bringing our neighbors together and we want to be an intentional part of creating this community.
Part of living generously, of living intentionally in our community, and of growing our hospitality is to create moments in which we can easily open our front door and let people in. I’d love to create relationships with our friends and neighbors where doorbells are unnecessary and our homes are always open. I have a good feeling about our neighborhood in particular and am thinking about ways in which I can further cultivate that level of ease and welcome with friends who may have to drive to our house. As I open myself to others, I hope they feel welcome and comfortable to sit on the porch – or come inside – and experience life together.
Where do you do most of your congregating – out front or in back? How do you meet your neighbors?