I love Portland. Small Batch Coffee. Powells Books. Community Gardens. Crisp air. Bikes everywhere. Timbers Army. Everyone has a front porch.
And in the mild summers, when the rain takes a break and goes on vacation, everyone lives on their front porch. I love the posture of this. It’s welcoming. Open. It’s the way of the older neighborhoods, designed by craftsmen and architects who built houses for relationship and communal living.
The bungalows and neighborhoods of Portland were built outward-facing. People live that way, too, for community. People share. They invite you into their homes. Sharing is just a way of life for Portlanders. And I think we can learn from Portland, even with all its oddities and weirdness.
From our front porch, we talked to Phyllis about her flowers. She’s the widow next door, who let me use her deceased husband’s tools. The Jewish couple brought us warm Challah bread. Sometimes we ate Killer Burger with them. Our daughters shared the same Hebrew name. The atheist couple next door had us over for dinner and wine. Mike let me borrow his wheelbarrow to move compost. The homosexual man across the street brought us champagne when our twins were born. The old, cussing man liked to give me gardening tips.
A much-needed idea. To me, Portland is picture of the early church. It embraces hospitality, each other and the world. It lives with open-hands, facing and sharing its wheelbarrows with the world.
But today, we build our homes, our churches and our lives without porches. We have lost our front-porch orientation. We drive home from work or the gym, and then go directly into our garage. We hit a button and close the garage door before we even leave the car. We live closed.
This feels less like the book of Acts and more like fear. It feels more like the loud-talking guy on the news who manufactures drama, selling fear for ratings. But when we live in fear, we cannot love our neighbor, as Jesus implores. And if we don’t even know our neighbor, there can be no “love for neighbor” at all.
Portland and the Book of Acts challenge me: Do I live openly on the front porch? Or am I closed off, locked in the garage? Do I know the names of my neighbors? Do I share my wheelbarrow and my tools, my life and my bread with them?