Stretching On The Front Porch

June 29, 2011

By Angela Liddle

For the past decade I have lived across the street from a very active, mostly entertaining institution- a public high school. I’ve seen everything from after prom fights, to building evacuations, purple hair and the occasional baseball flying into our front yard. Last evening I saw something pretty routine; two young girls, who will probably be first graders in the fall, playing on a pile of dirt the school has beside the ball field. The girls were climbing, sliding, twirling around; typical kid stuff. I watched them from the corner of my eye while I unloaded my car and watered my shrubs. These little darlings played with great intensity, all covered with dirt and not an adult in sight. Normally I would have sat on my front porch (no pun intended) and watched them from a distance until a responsible adult appeared. Not last night. I didn’t have the time or the patience. America’s Got Talent was going to be on soon and my chores weren’t quite finished. Plus, there have been quite a few recent reported cases in the newspaper of men exposing themselves. So, I decided to saunter on over and get to the bottom of the supervision issue. Minutes passed, we chatted and I got a little dirty. I asked them who brought them to the school. Suddenly, they remembered their moms. One looked left, the other right; there were no mommas in sight.

Around the back of the school we found the two moms standing talking with a friend. When they saw us coming towards them, there was a mixture of surprise, fear and embarrassment. I told them how cute their daughters were and that I just wanted to make sure they were safe, since so many people walk by the school. They seemed appreciative. I think they will keep a closer eye on them next time and guess what? I learned they live around the corner; I met people from the “neighborhood.” What really surprised me is that I stretched my comfort zone a bit without even realizing it. At my core I really am a Front Porch kind of person, who knew? I just need to build it into my every day experiences and my comfort level will continue to increase.

As I write this blog, participants today in a Dauphin County Front Porch Project Training are sharing how they used the skills they learned at the introductory training with families in their neighborhood. They have returned for Day 2 of training to build upon their skills through a variety of role plays and hands on exercises. One man shared he now notices how adults talk to children. A woman said she has intentionally started talking to children in her neighborhood so they feel safe with her and wants her house to be considered a safe haven. Another began talking to a stressed mom on her street and their children now play together. Sometimes time constraints can be a barrier, but sometimes we should not be so uptight about our long list of to do’s. Last night I stretched and grew in ways that America’s Got Talent could never have helped me do. To tell you the truth, it really reminded me of how things were when I was a kid, and I am not that old. Spending time on The Front Porch really can grow up a community; one adult, one child at a time. We can return civility to our communities. Visit and spend some time on The Front Porch.