Would You Join Me On the Front Porch?

Food for thought. Unless you’re not hungry.

I don’t know why this is the case, but it is. At least it’s this way in the overwhelming majority of cities and towns in the U.S.

We build backyards.

I know. Mind blowing. Isn’t it? Bare with me. I’ll do my best to draw you in. Then, in the truest spirit of Learn, Grow, Share…I’d love to know where you spent your time when you were younger. Was it in the front yard…or the back?

I remember, when I was young, we had a pretty ratty backyard. We had dogs, so the lawn was pretty chewed up. We had an old swing set, a fenced off area where we kept our boat, and a makeshift wooden deck that was literally designed to be used as a floating patio that we were gonna take to the lake. That patio never saw the water unless it rained.

But we didn’t really spend much time back there. There was nothing back there. My siblings and I were always in the front yard in case our friends came outside. If they did, we’d play. If they didn’t, we’d play. Our parents were gathered on someone’s driveway, sitting in beach chairs, probably enjoying whatever beer Safeway had a special on that week. We moved away when I was nine, but I can still name every single kid that lived on Brookview Drive in Concord, California; every kid from every house as far as I could see. They were my neighbors.

We road each others’ bikes and Big-Wheels. We played football in the street until the streetlights came on. And if it was a Friday night and “the big kids” were with us, we might even be allowed to stay out much longer. Still playing football, but now under the lights.

So why are we building remarkable backyards? Is it ‘cuz we ca? Maybe now we make more money? Maybe now we’re afraid to have our kids play unsupervised outdoors. Maybe we’ve lost interest in our neighbors, or maybe we don’t like ‘em…or worse…we don’t trust ’em. Whatever the cause…we now build backyards.

We build a patio made of bricks or stone or maybe wood or concrete. We build awnings and pergolas and overhangs to block the sun and keep us comfortable. We spend tons of money on comfortable, trendy, nice-looking outdoor furniture so we can spend time, in peace, with the people we know and love. And all of this…in our backyards.

The only time I ever see folks in their front yards is when they’re gardening. Mowing the lawn and trimming the hedges so their house looks beautiful in front. Ironic really, because the only time most of us see the front yard is when we leave or when we come back home.

But what do you think our society might look like if we built our front yards, or at least used ‘em? How many more friends would we have? How much more good could we do? How might our lives open up if we would just…open up.

Maybe we don’t need to make more money. Maybe a beach chair is enough. Maybe our parents were fearful too, to leave us unsupervised…so they didn’t. Maybe they had time to be out there with us because they didn’t have to work two jobs to pay the second mortgage that they used to build a resort in their backyard. Maybe they didn’t need to work at night, and if they did…they knew that their neighbors, people they trusted, would always keep an eye on the rest of the neighborhood kids.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d LOVE a resort in my backyard. No judgement. Just an observation.

And my intention is not to romanticize a earlier time, a different era. Earlier doesn’t make it better. People, connection, caring, support, trust, safety, love, inspiration. That’s what makes it better.

I bet we stand a better chance of finding those things in our front yard than in the back…especially if we’re open to it.

I think I’m gonna go out to buy a beach chair, grab my guitar, sit in my driveway…and see what happens.

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