Along with your morning cup of coffee some of you made transfers while checking your bank accounts online, grabbed your keys and headed out for the day’s groceries. Annoyed with the long lines you jumped behind another rushed patron at the ‘self check out.’ Nothing wrong with that. I do it all the time. But what is missing from those harried mornings are casual chit chat with a stranger, a chuckle with a cashier and simple human interaction. We have become a self-centered society running on hyper speed. Our focus lies more in technology than good conversation as our radios and ipods are programmed to exactly what we want to hear, we TiVo to cut down on the wasted time of commercials. Pay at the pump and even grocery shopping online makes life a bit easier but it’s cheating us out of the joys our grandparents’ days were sprinkled with…the blessing of personal contact. Even caller ID keeps us from answering the phone if the person on the other end tends to be chatty and we are headed out the door to the next thing on our “To Do” list. Years ago, I watched my grandfather head out to the post office; he was not in a car with his windows rolled up and a Bluetooth in his ear. He was on foot, calling to his neighbors and throwing up a wave from dew-sprinkled sidewalks. His day was laid out with friendly banter planned into it. He didn’t know who would stop by to chat as he repainted his garage door or mowed his lawn, but he welcomed the interruption. Personal contact was on his “To Do” list. “Stop in to see if Mary needs help with the lawn, go check on Hannah and make sure her air conditioner is still working.” I heard Vince Donnachie, a local pastor, once talk about the phenomenon of the ‘Front Porch.’ The gist of his message was that years ago it was the norm to keep connected with your neighbors and revive the heartbeat of your community each night on your friendly neighbor’s front porch. Vince illustrated this point by telling a story he had heard growing up. A relative had fond memories of seeing his grandmother’s front porch thriving with smiling neighbors and laughing children. This perfect memory screeches to a crushing halt as his uncle’s memory conjures up the day his family arrived only to see an eerie blue glow coming from the front windows. There was no lemonade, cookies or family on the porch and no one was playing outside. The few people who gathered sat inside mesmerized by the black and white television on a stand in the living room. His grandmother’s porch was never the same. The visits from that point on were done inside and were a lot less memorable. There is no substitute for human interaction. The children who are tormented enough to take out their sadness and aggression in the form of violence against their classmates are almost always reported as being “loners.” This is so sad. We didn’t hear about these travesties when my grandfather was leaning on a fence talking to his old friend mid-way to the post office. As we go through life we never know who we will meet or come in contact with from day-to-day. There is no doubt you have smiled after a store clerk commented positively on your child’s behavior or when a stranger helped make your day less hectic by reminding you that your coffee still sat on the roof of your car. Maybe you have been a blessing to someone by chasing after them with the bag of groceries they left behind or helping a child to find his mother in a crowded store. Some of you have been a blessing and didn’t even know it. These interactions cannot happen from inside your home while screening your calls or while punching in your P.I.N. number in the self check out. I guess the moral of my story is also a reminder to myself to slow down and enjoy the people around me; a reminder to take my new neighbor some cookies and stay long enough to chat. Unlike the houses of your grandparents, your porch is most likely on the back of your home, but don’t be afraid to use it. Invite your family and friends, open the door to someone new. Slow down and take the extra minutes to talk to a stranger, to make someone’s day or lend a helping hand. It will be a blessing to you as well. I have to go for now, my phone is ringing and my chatty friend is waiting on the other end.
**Contest news to be posted Sunday evening!