I was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, where I spend a great deal of my youth playing outside. Summer time is a little hot and many people have swimming pools. Winter time can get a little cold but there isn’t much rain or snow.
So, as a kid, I spent most of the year outdoors in the yard.
In the backyard.
I say backyard because most homeowners in Las Vegas focus their attention to the backyard, not the front. Most homes are positioned so that they have little to no front yard and a large backyard, surrounded by 6–foot cinder block walls.
Because no effort is put toward the front yard, we never spent time on the front porch. Why would I do that when I’ve got such an amazing backyard?
The result of this was that I barely knew my neighbors right across the street. We went to the same schools, graduated from high school in the same class, but never spent time together.
Since moving from Las Vegas, I have lived in Argentina, Chile, Panama, and Portland, Oregon. After living in many different places and among various cultures, I’ve come to realize: I was missing out on a unique experience that only happens in the front yard and front porch.
When spending time on the front porch, something magical happens––you meet and get to know your neighbors.
This thing called mutual visibility happens. You see them and they see you.
You begin to learn about each other’s lives, have conversations, and even hangout. What? Hang out with neighbors?
You are intentionally placing yourself into your community. I even keep a broom out there so I can make it easy to sweep the front porch, and at the same time, create an opportunity for connection.
I think this same idea applies to just hanging out on the front porch. I know that I’m less likely to create relationship with my neighbors if I don’t live in a way that makes me available to them.
Most of us grew up in a family where we kept our private lives private—we kept our issues, secrets, and emotions “in the backyard” and out of sight from our neighbors and loved ones. We would get home, pull the car in the garage, and close the garage door behind us. In the same way, we would walk into a room, church, home, or small group and bury our emotions and fears inside. Out of reach. Out of sight.
For most of us, if we don’t make community easy and accessible, we revert back to living only in the backyard. This not only applies to how we create community with our neighbors, but how we create community in our own homes. How do we fight against backyard living? How do we intentionally work against isolation?
Here are a few ideas to help you move from the backyard to front porch living:
Literally spend time on your front porch. Read a book. Drink your coffee. Play with the kids. Make it a habit. Put a broom on your front porch and sweep it daily. Get outside.
Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to make phone calls, to stay connected. Call your spouse just to say, “I love and appreciate you.” Call a friend to tell them the same. Call someone from your group to check in. An alarm doesn’t cheapen it. If anything, it shows intentionality.
Keep computers, tablets, and iPhones in the living room. This makes sense for many reasons, not only in support of sobriety. But sobriety is a good reason, too.
Buy magnet letters and spell FASTER on your refrigerator. If you’re married have two sets—one for you and one for your spouse. Daily move the letter that represent where you are at on your *FASTER Scale each day.
Sit down on Sunday night (with your spouse if you have one) and plan out the coming week. Intentionally, schedule a date, exercise, homework, self-care, and front porch time.
Chances are you are like me, and procrastinate when it comes to creating community. Make it easy on yourself.
Stop living in the backyard and start living out front, in the light, with vulnerability.
Front porch living—it’s better there.
*The FASTER Scale is a self-assessment tool that helps identify behaviors that lead to relapse. It is used in many Pure Desire group materials.
Robert is the Associate Pastor at The Oregon Community and is one of our Pastoral Sex Addictions Specialists at Pure Desire Ministries. He also is one of the founders of the Oregon Public House. Robert and his wife, Rebecca, are the owners of Woodlawn Swap-n-Play.