I grew up in the Italian section of Endicott, NY. You could smell the garlic and sauce cooking miles away. If you walked the blocks of the neighborhood, you would see the various front porches. Each neighbor had their chair or rocker with a distinct creak. As a kid, I would ride my bike around the block and wave to my neighbors.
Waving to my neighbors on their porches taught me about experiencing community. Every once in a while we would strike up a conversation about the Yankees, cars, and the old stories of IBM, which started in Endicott. Front porches provided space for neighbors to get to know each other.
Joseph R. Myers in the Search to Belong devotes a whole chapter to “Searching for the Front Porch.” He comments, “I wish for a front porch. I am not alone. In our time people have a hunger for a significant ‘median space.'” Myers describes the front porch as providing space between the public and intimate.
When people look to belong, they look for a safe and neutral place to get to know others at their pace. Some of us feel lonely and long for such places. Others of us would like to include more people, but do not always know how to create the space to meet with people.
The New Testament gives us glimpses Jesus meeting the woman at the well, meeting a blind man on a roadside, and his greatest sermon happened on a mountain to a synagogue. These snapshots of Jesus as someone who found the front porches. He invited people to know him rather than forcing relationships to happen.
Where are the front porches today? Go to any local coffee shop, Starbucks, Panera or diner. You can find the median spaces in lobbies, atriums, and parks.
Living out the Gospel in community means creating space for others. Inviting them to get to know you with no agenda. Learning to listen to them as they share their story. Remembering their name time after time. Grace motivates us to help them sense God’s presence in a way they can receive.
We look for and create front porches to help people belong as God intended them.
What memories do you have of front porches? What spaces have you considered “front porches” today?
Photo credit to Logan Adermatt.