Whatever happened to the sense of community I remember as a kid and young adult? Perhaps, it disappeared when backyard decks began to replace front porches.

As a child, front porches were a gathering place for friends, family and neighbors to sit and read the evening paper, converse with those passing by or to share dreams and plans about the future. The night air buzz…ed with activity as neighbor kids rode bikes up and down sidewalks and streets. Kick-the-can and hide-and-seek were played long after dark or until the last echo of “It’s time to come home now” was bellowed from a distant front porch.

The muffled conversations of grown-ups occasionally drifted overhead, lingering momentarily before overtaken by the sounds of child’s play. Life seemed to move at a slower pace on the front porch and neighbors were your friends rather than strangers.

Driving in rush hour traffic today, I found myself missing the comforts of my front porch. I became acutely aware of the sound of our squeaky porch swing swaying in the cool evening breeze. Of neighbor kids calling out the count down for hide-and-seek and the rustling of my dad’s evening paper as he turned the pages.

For a brief moment, I felt a twinge of sadness in knowing that my best childhood memories were buried somewhere beneath my old front porch. Unfortunately, my time of mourning was suddenly stopped short as an irritated driver gestured his resentment for my apparent slowing speed.

Life is full of changes, but I can’t say that the retirement of the front porch has benefited the community or the family. We no longer know our neighbors, nor do we desire to know them. With the invention of smart phones, e-mail, computers and backyard decks, we no longer feel the need to communicate intimately with members of our community or own family.

With all our advancements, I sometimes have to wonder what we are progressing toward. Life is about people and our ability to relate to them on a daily basis. Buried beneath the front porches of America is a gold mine of intimacy waiting to be rediscovered.

I still like to hear the sound of my neighbors’ car horn as they drive past my house when I’m working outside. I still welcome a friend, family member or neighbor stopping by unexpectedly. And, I will forever cherish the memories of those times when neighbors were a part of my evening ritual. Many of my closet friends today have evolved from front porch gatherings.

The concept of front porch fellowship is vital to the stability of every family. Front porches may be a thing of the past, but the need to nurture and maintain close family relationships is not. I believe it to be the most valuable inheritance we can offer our children.

Sit down for a family meal at the dinner table (with TV and phones off), do a craft or home project together, initiate an evening devotion, play board games; find ways to personify the true meaning of front porch relationships to the next generation. In doing so, your children will reap the harvest of establishing family and community relationships in a world that has little or no regard for intimacy.

Commit yourself to renew a front porch relationship with your family!

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