The Art of the Front Porch

Leaning into Random Conversations

The Art of the Front Porch

When I was a child, our lush, humid Maryland summers often forced me and my family onto our front porch. We had no air conditioning.

My mother had grown up in Baltimore City, with its famous white marble steps, and sitting out on the front porch in the evenings was just what we did. We watched traffic go by, chatted with neighbors out to water their yards, and -- most importantly -- we just talked.

I can't even remember now, decades later, what we talked about, but we consumed copious amounts of lemonade and ice cream, and -- most importantly -- just spent time together.

Today, these random conversations are fewer and more far between. AC is more common now, as are mobile phones, and often the "default setting" of our leisure worlds is to stay comfortably isolated in our own little bubbles with our mobile devices and their endless supply of connectivity and entertainment.

It is no wonder that people prefer comfort and predictability -- there are critters outside, and random people we may not wish to speak with. We may sweat in the summer air or freeze in the winter. Is there still any role for the front porch, or the plaza, or the town square?

Generations Communication Centers think so. Bringing people together who may not normally interact is more crucial than ever. In particular, young people today rarely know any seniors besides their instructors or their own grandparents.

The "collective wisdom" in our society is not finding its ways to cross-pollinate between generations and infuse our society that it once did. The GCC project creates “space” -- conceptual, psychological, and even architectural – that invites intercultural and intergenerational conversation.

Some of it is task-centered – young people instructing their elders on using digital tools such as the Internet – but much of it is “random,” centered in the moment, in the situation. It is precisely these moments that invite true Presence that generate conversations that help us lean into the moment. It is exactly this ability to connect that brings us as humans into our vulnerability, into tribe, into community.

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