What Happened to the Front Porch Swing?
edited: Friday, September 17, 2004
By Vicky Bowker Jeter
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Friday, September 17, 2004
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This article was published in the
Kleinbrook Klarion Community Newsletter
As I was stepping out of my house the other day, my neighbor, with whom I share a significant area of community property, eagerly caught my attention.
"I was just writing you a note," he said. He had been given an attractive,
white park-bench type lounger, which he felt fit most appropriately on my side of the property. His idea was to share it. "Looks fine to me," I said. More intent on returning his courtesty than the thought of actually using it. It really took me all that day to warm up to the idea of having that bench in my space. Then I asked myself, "Why?"
When I was a little girl visiting the small town where my mother grew up, it seemed a front porch swing just naturally came with about every other house I saw. And on sunny afternoons, or as the sun went down, people naturally used them. By the end of my short visit I was acquainted with a number of kind and interesting people. Today that warm feeling of community friendliness is all too far from natural. Not only has the front porch swing faded into a by-gone era, but front porches are fading at a frightful pace, as well. A number of years ago Charles Kuralt observed, "Something fundamental happened to American society when we stopped building front porches and began building back yard patios."
There are some formidable conditions creating this tendency toward isolationism that encroaches on our societiy's community spirit today.
Cost-cutting measures continually eat away at the size of family leisure areas and yards, the increasing necessity for two-income families makes time for enjoying these leisure areas harder to find, and it would, no doubt, be idalistic to try to convince most children that a front porch swing could compete with Nintendo for excitement. While these conditions are unlikely to fade any time in the near future, it is increasingly important that families make a conscious effort to find new ways to practice social skills inherently being lost in gradual isolation. Not only is practicing general social skills important to our spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being as adult--it is especially important for our children. When considering how to help a child grow into morally sound and emotionally fulfilling adulthood, it is important to remember that children learn not only by experience, but by example. Brownie troops and pee wee soccer teams are excellent for children to learn to relate to children as they grow up together, but only adults can show them how to relate as adults.
The experience of confronting the fear of guns, knives and bombs in our schools evolved one day at a time, one action at a time; one possibility for turning it around is for each of us to restore a common feeling of community warmth and friendliness in the same way.