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Front porch moments could save America

Do you ever stop and wonder what it is that you need in your life?

What about the things we all need in order to make life better for everyone?

I may not have the answers to those questions, but one of my neighbors has a pretty good idea. Sarah Scott thinks we all need front porches where we can sit and talk about frivolous things as well as the things that really matter — all in a friendly way even if we disagree on some things.

She got the idea from a country music song that dates to the 1990s. Co-written and recorded by Tracy Lawrence, “If the World Had a Front Porch” was released in 1995 and reached No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & tracks chart.

The tune reminisces about family values and pleasant evenings spent on the front steps of the family home.

In that song, Lawrence paints a pretty portrait of many things I remember from childhood. He sings about his mama sitting on that old swing, just like my mother, grandmother and aunts often used to do. He touches on rowdy fights among rambunctious brothers, playing with puppies, listening to whippoorwills and passing cars, and gazing up at a night sky filled with stars.

I’ll bet many of us in this area can relate to the line in the song that says Lawrence stole his first kiss on that familiar front porch.

I remember sitting on the bannisters at the front of our house in Belmont, listening to crickets and jumping up to capture lightning bus, just like Lawrence sings about in that song. I remember my dad, the late Jim Compston, striking matches on the seat of his pants or the bottom of his shoe so he could light a cigarette or an occasional pipe that he only smoked outdoors when I was small.

I did a lot of growing up on that porch. I rode small pedal toys there and went back and forth and around and around on roller skates. I hung around bothering my older brother’s friends when they stopped by. I also practiced tumbling and performing gymnastic feats there.

Most importantly, though, I remember neighbors sitting on their own porches, too. Sometimes they would call out a greeting and raise their hand in a friendly wave. Other times, they might casually walk over to our house and take a seat, chatting with Mom or Dad about the news of the day.

That’s what the Lawrence song is really all about. The chorus goes like this:

“If the world had a front porch, like we did back then;

“We’d still have our problems, but we’d all be friends.

“Treating your neighbor like he’s your next of kin, wouldn’t be gone with the wind;

“If the world had a front porch, like we did back then.”

Today I own the house I grew up in. It still has a porch swing and plenty of bannisters around the perimeter for comfortable evening seating. It’s still a fairly popular spot. Although my husband, Mike, and I tend to spend more time on our screened-in back deck, I often find myself on the front porch, catching up with my brother, Larry Compston, or waving and calling out to neighbors who have lived on this block for as long as I can remember.

Sarah has a beautiful front porch, also complete with a big swing, additional seating and cheery seasonal decor that always seems inviting. In fact, she was working to update those decorations when we had our chat last week about that song.

While we were talking, her mother, Martha Scott, stopped by. I’ve known Martha all my life and always enjoy talking with her. So they stood on Sarah’s porch and I stood in my yard nearby, able to comfortably practice social distancing while still sharing news about our families, guessing about the outcome of the upcoming election and just being good neighbors to one another.

It was a small front porch moment of our own, and I have had many of those with Sarah and other members of her family over the years. Before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived on our shores, it was not uncommon to see Sarah on that porch surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Sometimes they were simply relaxing. Other times, they were grilling hamburgers and sharing a summer meal.

Of course, there was always room and food enough for me and Mike or anyone else who wanted to stop by.

Some of my favorite memories have connections to my front porch, Sarah’s porch and porches all around the neighborhood.

So, I think Sarah may be on to something. With all of the strife occurring across the nation right now, maybe we do need to spend more time getting acquainted with our neighbors. Although we can’t safely be close together without taking precautions right now, a few friendly chats might go a long way toward us accepting one another, even if we disagree.

I think I’ll go sit on the porch.

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