The Front Porch, Revisited

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Luke 10:25-27

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, Fred Rogers

The Wall Street Journal article “The Forgotten Front Porch Is Making a Comeback”, by Spike Carlsen hopped off my screen and into my memory bank last Saturday.

We’ve owned and fixed up three houses and a condominium in 44 years of marriage. I love our current home, but a favorite remains our house in the Uplands neighborhood in Peoria, Illinois.

The Uplands is literally up the street from Bradley University, and, over more than a century, has welcomed professors, physicians from the hospitals down the Main Street hill, and any family wanting a true traditional neighborhood. We lived there from fall 1990 until summer 2001, when we returned to Kansas City. In that time, we literally rebuilt our home, but the one part that we kept as is was the gigantic front porch. We could talk to Judy, our neighbor to the south, and Kirk and Mary Fran, our neighbors to the north any time we wanted.

We welcomed nearby neighbors to sit down and join us, and time flew by talking about the important, and the mundane. Everyone was valued. Every conversation was important. Though we were thrilled to come back to Kansas City, saying goodbye to that house — the porch — and our dear neighbors was very difficult.

We have lived in our Kansas City North neighborhood for 12 years (after swearing we’d never buy another house, maintenance and upkeep and all). It wasn’t until a couple of years ago I noticed, driving into the subdivision, that there are few houses with front porches. This design decision had the unintended consequence of isolated all of us from our neighbors, next door and down the block. You might say “Hi” to the people on either side, and know them a bit, but that was it. There was a vacuum, a stillness, a sadness in this landscape.

In the last couple of years, younger families have moved in, and those families have been walking with their children, be they in carriages, strollers, or side-by-side. It is a beautiful thing to see. If my wife and I are outside, and sometimes, when we’re not, we say hello, talk, introduce ourselves, and thank them for being the parents they demonstrate to the world.

Our Young Adult friends at our church, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in downtown Kansas City, Mo., are taking their own place in finding their homes. Some are moving to an area called Old Northeast, which is in the midst of a major makeover. Two special friends, awaiting the birth of their first child, have been overseeing renovations and, after their baby is born, will move from their current downtown condo. I doubt either saw this transition in their future as my wife and I spent time with them individually prior to their connecting with each other just three years ago.

Now, married just over a year,  they prepare to leave behind “the old” and meet new people and have new experiences as they set up their front porch, be the loving people they strive to be, and say “Welcome, neighbor.”

Image: Rooky Yootz Flickr

Michael Throop