I love when the warm weather sets in because I add another room to my house: my front porch!  Mark and I love to sit out on the porch and read, talk, or visit with friends.  Today I’m sharing an excerpt from My Hearts at Home about the value of neighboring and “porching.”
            My friend Rita described a recent afternoon in her neighborhood.  After a powerful storm had passed through the area, the neighborhood was left without electricity.  With nothing to do inside, everyone began to meander out into the subdivision streets visiting with one another and watching their kids play in the puddles. 
She said it was such a nice time visiting with neighbors she rarely saw on a daily basis. 
            After 20 minutes of time, porch lights came on as evidence that the electricity was restored.   As soon as people realized that the electricity was back on they immediately excused themselves to head back inside.  Rita found herself marveling at how quickly people had left the community gathering in the street to the isolation of their home.
            Gone are the days where neighboring is an American pastime.  Our lives move so quickly from one activity to another that the most interaction we have with our neighbors is a quick wave on the way in or on the way out of the driveway. 
            Dr. John Buchino, author of Porching: A Humorous Look at America’s Favorite Pastime, says that porching has medical benefits including lowering blood pressure and prolonging life.  Architect Russel Francois believes air conditioning and attached garages brought a slow death to porching.  He said today’s homeowners rarely look at porches for lingering but more for curb appeal.  The porch is a tool, but if we don’t have the energy to socialize, we won’t use it.  Sitting there encourages interaction and by the time we finally get home at night, most of us would rather retreat indoors and be entertained rather than be entertaining.
            Several years after we bought our farmhouse, we decided to finally tackle the front porch.  When we bought the house, the porch was caved in and the front door had been caulked shut.  Because we had so much to renovate and restore, the front porch was one of the last big jobs we had to tackle.  The weekend we tore off the old porch I noted how cold and unwelcoming the house looked without a porch (even though the old porch had been unusable it had still protected the front of the house and given it a fairly-completed look).  Over a long weekend, we built a full-size wrap-around porch on the front of our home.  That porch has become another room in our house during the summer months.  We visit with friends, take afternoon naps, and even eat meals under the protection of our porch.  In the evening after the kids are in bed, Mark and I often enjoy a mini-date snuggling on the porch swing and talking about life.
            Front porch (or back porch) sitting, also called porching, is a pastime worth reviving.  It slows down life enough to ponder, visit, and even watch a thunderstorm roll in.  If you have a front porch and it’s an inviting place to be, porching might open the door to neighboring.  A neighbor walking by just might bring about some impromptu conversations and an invitation to come sit and chat awhile.  Back porches are more isolated and usually require more of an invitation to visit but those conversations are just as valuable.  We live out in the country, so neighbors don’t just walk by on the sidewalk.  We have to extend an invite or be ready for unexpected company—either are fine with us. We just enjoy the slower pace that the porch invites us to enjoy.

What about you?  What do you do to encourage neighboring or “porching?”

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