Turning our back on Americana!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The "front porch" has been a long-standing trademark of America.

For decades, Americans spent their family and neighborhood time on the front porches and in the front yards of our communities. Neighbors visited with neighbors, talked with those strolling by, watched over community activities and spent time strengthening their family relationships.

That period in our history represented an extremely strong sense of prideful communities. This era was reflected by the phrase "It takes a community to raise a child." Sharing of family with others and watching over the community was common.

Over the past few decades our focus has been gradually shifting away from the front porch to the patios and decks of the back yard. These tend to be the back yards with high fences that screen us from our neighbors and the community. This was a move from a sense of community to a sense of separation and isolation. This tended to result in a lack of communication with the neighbors and the community.

This shift seems to coincide with a change in society toward personal satisfaction or gain versus the sense of commitment to the neighborhood and the community. That shift from the front porch to the back yard also seems to coincide with the children caught in between staying in the house between the front and back yards watching TV or pursuing electronic games. We moved from a social and caring rural society to an economically motivated urban society.

Along with this shift of focus comes a retreat from the broader perspective of the welfare of the community that we had from the front porch. With our backyard focus our interests shift to our personal and family situation and needs. In general, it reflects a shift of the nation from the common good and needs of society to personal needs and objectives.

What occurred with this shift was a general decline in the sense of community pride and respect. Pride and respect in our homes, neighborhoods and communities Both pride and respect and community image and quality can occur with careful and thoughtful "front porch analysis." Planning and development thinking that embraces the needs of the community, takes the long-term view, and provides for sustainability in both image and vitality is critical.

The challenge now is to see if we are resilient enough to shift our focus from the backyard to the front yards of America.