The Front Porch
By Jeff Pinyot
I live in a pretty pathetic neighborhood as far as neighborly relationships go. It’s not what I had hoped for when Ruth and I built our beautiful Cape Cod home with a huge front porch and rocking chairs. The neighbors were not like what we had seen on TV, where Millie could just walk in the side door of the Petries’ home without knocking, sit down, and have morning coffee with Laura (on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” in the 1960s).
Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of nice people in the neighborhood, but most have different agendas. Despite efforts by many neighbors to connect this group over the years, it always remains fractured at best. We probably should have moved, but we love our house and the convenience of our location to our lifestyle.
We imagined, while building, that we would sit on the front porch in the evenings while neighbors strolled by and talked the evening away with us on the front porch, while our kids (that we would eventually have) would play together in the yard with their kids. That really never happened (the neighbor part, that is; we did have four children).
What we should have taken notice of, is that our house was the only one in the neighborhood with a front porch. All the others had back porches.
Have you ever given thought to this?
In years past, all houses had front porches. Everyone sat outside in the evenings, escaping the heat that built up in the houses throughout the day, sans air conditioning. Incredible and lasting relationships were developed on the front porches of these communities.
A/C has changed our society quite a bit: It has kept us inside ... and moved our porches to the back of the house.
Cable TV gave us channels such as HGTV, which made our backyards no longer sufficient. Now they have to have water features, herb gardens, habitats to help replenish butterflies and the dwindling honey bee population. We need fire pits and outdoor kitchens to entertain the people we ship in to our homes to be our neighbors.
Society has changed, and the front porch has gone away. We are now a secret society in the back of our houses, our backyard fiefdoms.
Recently, I’ve noticed one of our neighbors sitting in her driveway. Is she wishing that she had put her porch on the front of her house instead of the back? Is she wanting to talk? Perhaps we should have a front porch party at our house.
Perhaps we should take out Justin’s lemonade stand, put it in the front yard, set some red-and-white-checkered plastic tablecloths -- you know, the ones that are padded on the bottom and plastic on the top -- on some tables on the porch and invite the neighbors over to reconnect.
Have you ever noticed how garage sales bring neighbors out for long conversations? I think we are all starved for good neighbor relationships. So, what are you? Are you a front porch or a back porch kind of person?
Recently, I decided to serve my neighbors. Each home is required to have a large decorative post light out front. They are all the same, and you need a ladder and an Allen wrench to access the lamps (lightbulbs for the layman). Since I am a lighting guy, I told our neighborhood president that I’d change lamps for everyone in the neighborhood when I see them out.
Can you imagine my neighbors, when in the dark of night, I drive up to their homes, clang my ladder against their light post while simultaneously getting stuck with rose bush thorns and touching nasty bugs, and provide a new lamp -- installed, free of charge and free of their labor!
They don’t understand why I would do that for them. It’s all a part of an attempt to change a culture from a “Me-Centered” one to a “You-Centered” one. Can even a little act of kindness be a catalyst to return us to the bygone years and get my neighbors to the front of their homes?
Now, when I’m out on the front porch, my neighbors are at least starting to wave at me. Now let’s see if they’ll sit down and have some lemonade with us.
I’d like to build a neighborhood that requires front porches. If you are a front porch kind of person/company, with front porch values and ethics, I think people will not only want to work with you, but they will go out of their way to seek and choose to work with you.
Jeff Pinyot is President of ECO Parking Lights/ECO Lighting Solutions. He can be reached for comment at (317) 501-2892 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.