On a recent walk through a small town near where I live, I noticed something. Many of the older houses had plenty of porch space. There was room for chairs, swings, even tables. Clearly, these houses were built before air conditioning; but they were also built so folks could come and “sit a spell.”

One of many welcoming porches from a walk through La Grange, Ky

Houses built today are more likely to have space in the back yard – fenced-in and private. If we venture outside, it’s likely to be out the back door, not the front.

At the same time, the path for many to get inside when they arrive home is through the garage. As porches are getting smaller, garages are getting bigger. As we grow more dependent on our cars, we have built more space to hold them. So when we leave home and when we come back, we hit a button, slide out or into the garage – never having to set foot outside.

Don’t get me wrong. Garages are nice. We have one at our house. My wife really likes it. It’s a little warmer in winter, and she never has to scrape off any snow or ice. I’m glad for her, while also a little jealous. I wish there was room for my car, too, especially on really cold or really hot days.

Garages are nice … except when they keep us from interacting with our neighbors. Garages are nice … except when they make it easy to slip into the house and avoid getting to know the people who live around us.

So, take a look at your house. Does your porch hold more people than your garage holds cars? If it does, great! Make sure you’re outside, getting to know the people who share some real estate with you. But if your porch is too small, get creative. Find ways to share life with those around you. Maybe it’s having people join you in your nice backyard. Maybe it’s by taking a walk. Or maybe it’s doing what this guy did.

Either way, don’t let your garage or porch size be indicative of how you “neighbor.” But when it does come time for you to move, look at the porch-to-garage ratio. And focus more on the one that opens the door to relationships, rather than the one that closes it.

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