In the past two years my life has changed drastically. I was laid off from one job, then let go from another. My wife and I had to scrape and save, collect unemployment and rent a room. Through all of this, we’ve received unexpected lessons in community.
We decided shortly before we were married to stay put. We set aside grand ideas and opted instead to build our life around our church. Knowing full well that our city was not a booming economic paradise, we had only one thing in our life that really made sense. Having left behind our hometowns for college, we found community here—in this outpost of faith and family. Sacrificing this for a pipe dream of financial stability and comfort seemed foolish. This was our town, our church, our life. Greener grass be damned.
The “little platoons” that we’ve built by grace (certainly not by accident) produced friends who rallied around us when things went south. Friends from our little Eastern Orthodox parish, from my wife’s baby-wearing group and elsewhere have brought us meals, dropped off groceries, and lifted spirits.
In this same time frame, our closest friends very intentionally bought their first home a mere seven houses down the street. We’ve spent countless hours sharing dinners, laughing, mourning, brewing beer, singing and praying together. We’ve begun piecing together a communal life bit by bit in living rooms, backyards, and even on porches.
My wife is currently working for two local non-profits, one of which is just a few blocks from home. When the second job began to look like a real option and my opportunities looked increasingly scarce, we decided that I would stay home with our three kids, write some poetry, and jumpstart the urban homestead.
As you might imagine, we have not been made exceedingly rich by this arrangement. So now, more than ever, we are seeking to double down on our communitarian efforts. We’ve begun prepping for spring planting, agreeing with our friends that planting the same crops would be less efficient and more costly than growing separate things and swapping. We are planning to rearrange their garage to turn it into a community tool shed and possibly undertake a similar project in our basement: a community pantry. Meanwhile, we are plotting to move more of our friends into the neighborhood if at all possible.
About a month ago, I happened upon Front Porch Republic and began reading voraciously. Seeing names I knew like Wendell Berry and Bill Kauffman, reading one ode to community and place after another, a whole world of likeminded folks opened up for me. I couldn’t get enough. It seems I’ve been a “porcher” for quite some time without knowing it.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve been calling “the porch in practice.” I’m seeking to translate these ideas into action right here, right now on my “little postage stamp of ground” (as Bill would call it).
Earlier this week, my neighbor and I took to starting a little think tank/volunteer organization. It’s high time we move beyond pipe tobacco and bonfires. We thought it only appropriate that we name it for our little city street, the site of so much joy and sorrow in the last two years. Initially, it was the rather clunky Concord Contrary Cranks Society. We have since changed it to the more elegant Concord Front Porch Society. It is, if you will, a local chapter. We hope to carry on with greater intentionality what we’ve been doing so far by instinct.