You’ve been there before. That place at a friend or family member’s home where everyone gathers. The spot in their house where conversation flows, where secrets are shared, and where life is lived in community.
For some, it’s a large front porch. Guests sit in the old wood rocking chairs passed down from grandma, chatting until the sun goes down–or until the iced tea runs out. They watch the street and comment on the passerby’s, perhaps waving to neighbors and inviting them up the stairs to join the conversation. Children sit on the swing hanging from the rafters, climbing off and on, over and over again.
Or maybe it’s the kitchen, where guests gather on bar stools or stand nearby while the host prepares a meal. Friends catch up on one another’s lives around a counter lined with finger foods–chips and salsa, the much-loved layered dip your friend always makes, cut up veggies, and maybe a glass of wine.
For us, it’s our back porch. We don’t have a huge house for entertaining, but with the back sliding doors opened wide, the porch becomes another room of the house. It’s there where our life has been lived in community these past ten years.
Holidays and birthdays are celebrated out there on the porch. Kids jump and splash in the pool while adults sit nearby and talk. Bible studies, small groups, and prayer meetings have been held there as well. It was at the tile topped table where a new friend turned to me and said, “I can see it in your eyes. You’ve been there too.” Life stories were shared; the joys and pains of life passed around the table like Thanksgiving’s bowl of mashed potatoes.
Children have grown up there on our porch. First, babies splashing in the pool’s sun deck, then they were toddlers pushing toys around the porch, and now they are elementary students riding scooters around the pool like it’s a race track. Where mommies once gathered for play group to talk about baby’s sleep schedule and first attempts at crawling, we now talk about the kid’s sports, schools, and hobbies.
There’s the annual Christmas party, where everyone gathers out on the porch to select a white elephant gift. We all laugh as the gifts are stolen and then stolen again. The pool glows in the darkness from the underwater lights. If it’s a S. Florida style December, the fire pit is roaring and the standing heater is lit.
Welcomes and goodbye’s, baby showers and ‘get to know new church member’ meals, have all occurred on this concrete surface. Broken arms, burnt hands, and snake bites have happened here too. Laughter, tears, stories, love, bitterness, sadness, and fear, have all been poured out over the years. With no protection overhead than a dome-shaped screen, the sun and moon have both silently witnessed all these events. The coastal breezes have captured all the shouts of laughter, carrying them far away.
Can a place or a structure facilitate life? Can a simple back porch with tables and chairs, a pool, and kids toys scattered about, gestate and give birth to friendship, love, knowledge, hope, faith, and healing? Or is it not the place, but the people gathered?
I think maybe it is both. The place provides the opportunity and is merely a host. The people provide the seeds to begin friendships which they then nurture over time. A place with an open door provides the potential, but it’s the open and willing hearts of the people where friendships form, stories are shared, and lives are changed. Community can happen anywhere as long as there are people willing to join it.
Where is that place for you?
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35
Source: Lisa Tarplee Photography
Counting graces in community (#1733-1748):
Our community who gathers at our place
Memories made and relationships nurtured
Ten years in our home
A week of doctor’s visits for me, getting them out of the way before homeschool starts again
Organizing school room, unpacking and going through new curriculum
His strength in my weakness
Planning a trip with the boys to San Diego this fall
Lessons learned through parenting
Ian insisting on swimming in his Star Wars underwear instead of swim shorts:) “I’m an underwear swimmer, Mom.”
Saturday morning spent sitting in the pool reading
Receiving an email from the editor of Proverbs 31 Women’s Magazine informing me that an article of mine will be published in their January 2013 magazine
Having my husband’s boss over for dinner
Simply laughing that our new dryer doesn’t work either!
My husband talking my son through an emotional event via Skype