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Where Neighbors Gather

 

When I was growing up, the front porch was the place to be. When it was nice out, we lived on the porch. It was base when we played hide-and-seek, the grandstand where Grandma and Grandpa would cheer for our plays and front-yard sports, and the porch was where the evening paper was read.

When summer storms approached, we would sit on the porch swing and count the seconds between the lightning and thunder.  When the autumn leaves fell, we would jump from the porch railing into the biggest pile we could create. And when the snow fell, Christmas lights twinkled across the top and down the banisters gleaming in the ice cycles.

Neighbors frequently joined us on the porch to chat, enjoy a cold beverage, share stories and offer support. Our family always believed that no one on the porch was a stranger, and neighbors were more than people who lived on our street. Neighbors were family. The openness of that porch and the people who gathered there showed me just how important a community is.

In recent years, those neighbors have meant more than ever before. They have transformed from occasional conversation partners to Grandma's connection to the outside world.

My grandmother has never grown accustom to living alone, and as she told me, you can only clean your closets so many times before people think you're crazy. Her neighbors have always helped break up the monotony of day to day. They've stopped by to share dinner, talk for a while, and bring in the mail. They've listened to her stories, filled her in on neighborhood gossip and offered a helping hand.

When Grandma moved out of her house, she was sad to leave her neighbors and that porch behind. She thought that they may never know how much she appreciated their kindness.  She wondered if she had thanked them enough all of those years. She wondered if she would ever find neighbors as wonderful as the ones she was leaving behind.

Luckily, Grandma didn't have anything to worry about. It turns out those old neighbors are even more wonderful than she had thought. Instead of yelling "Hello" over the hedges or cutting through lawns to come see her, they get in their cars and drive the three miles to her new place. They still bring goodies and offer a helping hand, and they still listen to her stories and share their own.

While I miss that front porch and the time I spent there with Grandma and the neighbors, I've realized there wasn't anything magical about the porch itself. The most wonderful thing about the porch wasn't the fresh air it offered or the custom furniture my grandfather made for it. No, the greatest thing about our front porch was, and still is the people that gathered there. Now, we just have a new place to gather.

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