I know most people spend summer on their deck in the back yard, but I want to share about something different.
Front yard living.
At the end of 2013, we moved into a new construction home. When the brutal subzero winter ended, people emerged and we finally met our neighbors.
One of the greatest benefits about living in a new construction neighborhood is everyone is new – especially the first year. There are no cliques – no long-term established friendships.
Everyone seems friendlier and more eager to meet their neighbors.
Since new houses come with dirt yards and gravel driveways, significant time is spent walking the neighborhood and in the front yard. Few homes have decks right away.
Then driveways go in and sod that can’t be walked on.
The driveway is the yard. Initially, front yard living was necessity.
We spent the first three summers in the front. This is our fourth summer and this summer we built a deck.
This spring, when the deck materials were delivered, a neighbor commented in passing – now we’ll never see you guys anymore. Her comment has stuck with me.
With the excitement of having a new deck – we have been spending a lot of time in the back yard. Backyard living has some great benefits – convenience, privacy, more space, and in our case, a view. But more time in back means less in the front.
I love our deck, but there is a great case to be made for front-yard living and it has to do with relationships.
Simply put, front yard living creates opportunities to build relationships with neighbors.
A Case For Front Yard Living
Meet Neighbors – As people pass by, on the way to the mail box or on a walk, simply being in the front yard creates an opportunity to greet and meet neighbors in a natural way. Even the most reserved or shy people are usually open to a friendly wave and smile followed by an introduction. Some may move on quickly, but others will surprise you and stay to chat. Many of these chance introductions have turned into hours of conversations and cherished friendships.
Kids – This neighborhood is crawling with kids. They walk, bike and scooter by on a regular basis. Regular friendly waves and hellos or meeting them briefly when they walk by with their parents let them know we’re safe adults if they need something. We’ve helped with minor scrapes, calling parents, and bike chains. Front yard living has also helped us build relationships with kids who play with our kids on a regular basis. It is amazing how long a child will stand and talk to us while all the other kids are playing – they tell us stories, about their weekend or school day, and what activities they’re involved in. Relationships with neighborhood kids are important to us – these kids are precious family friends.
Fun – In back, kids are usually in the yard and adults are up on the deck. Separate. (Don’t get me wrong – separate can be lovely). In the front, we’re in close-proximity. Our kids are more likely to invite us to join their fun, or join us if we’re all in the yard. More spontaneous water fights, and games of catch, 4-square, and soccer happen in the front yard with our kids and whoever else joins in. A water table, bubbles, and sidewalk chalk are magnets for other kids and their imaginations.
Regular connections – Being in the front means we see neighbors coming, going and passing by. These brief interactions allow for regular, natural connections. We have the chance to enter into real-life with our neighbors. We learn what is on their minds and what is going on in their lives – the good, bad, sad, stressful, joyful and real happenings of daily life. I am always grateful to learn these things from a face-to-face conversation than on Facebook, Instagram, or text.
Lend a hand – Being out front means we get to see when others need help – unloading or loading something heavy, watching a small child so they can run into the house for something quick, changing a tire, lending a tool or holding a ladder, or providing a missing ingredient. These chances to help are invaluable gifts – relationships are often forged in these types of experiences. We are blessed to be able to step in and help when we can.
We ARE enjoying our deck and the benefits of back yard living. But, front yard living still holds significant value.
Front yard living has allowed us to join our neighbors in real-life. We have been blessed as so many have stepped into the messiness of life with us through the conversations of front-yard living.
We plan to continue making time to be out front, experiencing and building community in our neighborhood.
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31 (ESV)
To love your neighbor as yourself, you have to first get to know them.