Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as a Human Resources Specialist.
When we moved into our current home, we had to get the concrete outside our front door repaired. On our invoice, I saw that we were billed for fixing our “porch.” Really? A porch? It’s a 4’ x 6 ‘ slab, just enough for 2 people to stand on to ring the doorbell.
I suppose one would call it a porch, but I grew up in a house built many decades ago with a real front porch. The porch had chairs and a table where you could sit and watch the neighbors walk by. You knew what was going on in your neighbor’s life, because you knew your neighbor. You knew when your neighbor had cancer, lost a job, had a baby, had an affair, took up dance lessons, joined a gym, had a mid-life crisis, and the list goes on and on.
Because of these interactions, when you were really sick, it was your neighbor who brought you dinner. Your neighbor watched your house while you were out of town. Your neighbors let you borrow that missing ingredient when cooking dinner. Why go to the grocery store when you could get a cup of flour 20 feet away? Need a certain tool to do a project? For goodness sake, don’t buy it when your friends next door have one. And your neighbors felt the same way about you. You lived with and did life with the community around you.
These days, most houses are built with tiny front porches and big backyard decks. Decks allow us the option to be more selective about our interactions. You must be invited into a conversation on a deck, whereas a porch just allowed conversations to happen.
I’ll be honest in that I really like the idea of a deck. I have just enough introvert in me to enjoy being left alone at times. I don’t want to feel like I am always “on” or that my neighbors are always in my business. When our society moved from a front-porch to a back-deck culture, we certainly gained that autonomy. But I think we have to recognize what we lost with that freedom. It is far more difficult to know our neighbors.
If we want to know the people living a stone’s throw away, we must be intentional about it. While the layout of our houses doesn’t always encourage this, the Bible certainly does. Learning to love our literal neighbors means that we must recognize and get over our backyard-deck mentality. There is a freedom that we surrender in doing so but, with that, we gain an answer to a calling and a richness of true community.
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