Several years ago I visited friends in Columbus, Ohio. They live on a quaint street in an older suburb where there is a corner grocery store – a throw-back to the 1920s when most of the houses in that neighborhood were built. Every evening the family sat out on their large mission-style front porch, and joining them, I experienced something I had never observed in my own neighborhood.
Neighbors walking down the sidewalk hailed one another as well as the people sitting on front porches on both sides of the street. Occasionally, someone would ask a question of either a passerby or a neighbor to their right or left. I quickly discovered they had a camaraderie. Not only that, but I saw genuine care and concern – an intimacy in conversation about life challenges and joys.
I most of suburbia, if we have porches or patios, they are on the back side of our houses. We have garages with garage door openers in our cars. And, often those garages have entrances right into our houses. We drive home from work or errands straight into our garages and rarely see or chat with our neighbors. And, it has contributed to knowing less about our neighbors and their needs as well.
The contrast between what I observed as “front porch neighboring” and what I have become accustomed to in my own neighborhood is a sense of deeper and more intentional community among those who know their neighbors better. It has challenged me to be more intentional myself in how I move and work and live in my own neighborhood.
Our home where we have lived the past 29 years is in a semi-rural area where we don’t even have sidewalks. Half-acre spreads mean we don’t easily see our neighbors. Recently houses on either side and behind us were sold and new families moved in. I decided to practice front porch neighboring. I watched till I knew someone had moved in, then my husband and I took a plate of home baked cookies and a bottle of wine and introduced ourselves. We included our cell phone numbers, encouraging the new neighbors to let us know if they needed anything. Within a couple of days, we had the opportunity to help one couple find a good plumber. We have been privileged to have another couple over for dinner. In the process, we are learning more ways we can build great relationships that help us be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus in our every-day-at-home world. – Judi Brandow, Communications Specialist