Last Wednesday evening Josh and I sat outside on our sidewalk in camping chairs to enjoy the nice weather and talk about our day. If it hadn't been for the mosquitoes, the evening would have been delicious. It was still nice to sit there and watch the world go by. An elderly man walked by on his evening walk around the neighborhood. He had his walking stick and a newspaper boy cap on his head and looked like the kind of neighbor you would like to sit and talk with. He stopped in front of our house to greet us and introduce himself. He made the comment that now that we've done away with front porches on houses everyone sits inside and has become isolated. We agreed and lamented the loss of visiting with neighbors. He told us where he lived, pleasantly took his leave, and resumed his walk.
Yesterday at the doctor's office I had to get blood taken as usual. It's always the same lady who takes my blood. But yesterday was different - not the lady, but the atmosphere. When I sat down, she didn't jump right on getting me ready. In fact, she was still taking her time doing paperwork that I sent Josh on back to work. As she was taking my blood, we heard an ad for PetSmart on the radio and she asked me if I had a pet, which launched us into a conversation that lasted well after my blood donation. I could tell she just wanted to talk about getting a dog, about her cousin's cat, about not liking cats in general. She just sat back (after patching me up, of course) and just talked with a thoughtful look on her face. Part of me wanted to get up and get going, I mean, my appointment was over. But I didn't right away because here was a chance to connect to person who just wanted company. Here was an opportunity to break from my normal pace of "go-go, stick to the schedule." Here was a chance to have a front porch again.
The emphasis on being efficient and pragmatic has left us without front porches. There is always something else to do. We put off things for a rainy day, only to find that rainy day has troubles of its own. So we say, "When the kids are grown..." or "When we retire we'll have more time to..." And until then we push ourselves to do as much as we can in a day.
I don't know what the answer is. I do the same thing. If I'm talking on the phone I try to do dishes or laundry at the same time so that I'm "getting something done." Even in a time when we have so much convenience - prepared meals, internet, video conference, washing machines, and more gadgets, we aren't relaxing any more than before. We are just doing more.
And another year goes by and we think "How long has it been since I've talked to so-and-so?"
I'd petition to bring back front porches if I thought that would help. But I think I have to start first with me. So if you get a phone call from me, even if I call while in the car driving somewhere, it's because I'm trying to change my world and maybe get to be a part of yours for a minute.