We are unabashedly front yard people. We spend much of our family time in the front yard and welcome others to spend time and connect with us as we seek to build community through authenticity.
It started years ago when my first two kids were young toddlers. We spent hours playing in our tiny, suburban front yard, which felt plenty big enough for two boys two and under.
A couple years later, we moved cities to a home with a lake in the backyard. And yet, we still spent the majority of our time in the front yard with our three—and eventually four—kids.
We hosted driveway dinners with friends and shot off small fireworks on the 4th of July. My kids gave the elderly neighbors quite the show each day, swinging high on the tree swing, throwing the ball and zooming down the driveway on riding toys.
It wasn’t the perfect front yard, by any means, but we managed to make the most of it despite the sloped terrain and patchy grass.
When we moved again this past summer, the branding of #FrontYardPeople really struck a chord with me. This was us—three simple words strung together that sum up our family life in one breath.
Truth be told, there is nothing idyllic about front yard people. Our life with four kids is loud and messy and on display for all to see. If you drive by our home, you’ll most likely see scooters and balance bikes and big wheels parked forlornly in the grass. From the road, you’ll see the mound of shoes and boots piled by the front door. You may see a littering of sidewalk chalk and trash left behind from mid-afternoon snacks.
But if you look closer, you’ll also realize that this front yard is where life is carried out, with all its ranging emotions. Our new neighbors (once again temperate troopers) get a full view of our front yard life from their large breakfast window.
They often see kids swinging high on our large tree swing—and witness the laughter and occasional fighting when they can’t agree on who has to push the swing.
They see my 7 and 9 year old boys dinking the pickleball back and forth on the driveway.
They see my two year old with his pants around his ankles “watering” the closest tree when he thinks no one is watching.
They see my daughter drawing masterpieces with sidewalk chalk on the driveway, sometimes getting upset when her little brother ruins her designs.
They see my kids shoveling mulch, cutting the grass, picking weeds and watering the plants—and they may even be able to hear their grumbling about doing chores.
Our location may have changed, but in our front yard, we still hold driveway dinners with friends, where we gather round in chairs and spread out a table of food while the kids play around us. We hold block parties in our culdesac and set up a slackline in the two trees closest to the mailbox.
When the weather is cool, we invite people over for roasting hotdogs and s’mores over our firepit—elegantly positioned (you guessed it) right in the middle of our front yard. Nearby, you’ll see our vintage street globes, lit up at night with a welcoming picnic table sandwiched in between.
In the summer, you’ll see a water table with toys set up on the driveway. In the fall, you see a band of kids carving pumpkins in the front yard. And in the winter, when there is the smallest dusting of snow, you’ll witness my kids sledding from the neighbor’s front yard to ours.
In our front yard, you’ll see our kids filling up watering cans and feeders for our two dozen chickens—and if you’re fortunate, you’ll witness a few chickens making a beeline down the hill of our side yard to our front yard. Apparently, they are front yard people just as much as we are.
In our front yard, we welcome the UPS truck driver daily, Airbnb guests weekly and 18-wheeler truck drivers monthly. They manage to bypass our chickens and our kids, and we bombard them with a friendly chorus of hellos each time.
Hospitality is offering a cold Gatorade to the UPS driver in the summer as much as it is serving a meal to friends in the driveway. It’s providing the personalized touches for an Airbnb guest family as much as it is hosting a neighborhood block party. It’s chatting with strangers in the front yard as much as it is baking muffins for a new neighbor.
In our front yard, you’ll witness the good and the bad. You’ll see us break bread with friends one day and attempt to break the willful spirit of a child the next.
In our front yard, life is lived, wonder is witnessed, joy is caught unawares, discipline is enacted and work is done.
A couple months ago, I was introduced to the concept of The Turquoise Table (book info here). And while I chose a more subtle color for my front yard picnic table, I absolutely embrace the idea of creating community where you live.
Despite moving to a new town less than a year ago, our family of 6 arrived with the mission of building community—even as newcomers. We decided to be more friendly, more outgoing, more involved and more initiating than ever before.
We realized that our move gave us a blank canvas that we could begin to paint in a way that allowed us to build community, serve others, offer inclusion and set an example for our kids.
We are decades away from any masterpiece, but we are beginning to see the brushstrokes take effect and even connect to eventually make something bigger. We are becoming more in tune to the needs of our community and our new church. We are learning to fulfill the needs of neighbors, even when it takes us out of our comfort zone. (Must read: The Gospel Comes with a House Key.) We are discovering the double blessing of being Airbnb hosts, moving past transactional relationships to budding friendships and lending an ear to those who just need to talk.
With no foreknowledge of who already knows who in our new town, it’s been amazing to invite people we’ve met for a gathering and see unlikely friendships form—no matter the varying socio-economic statuses or religious backgrounds. Inclusion matters at every age.
As William Butler Yeats so succinctly puts it: “There are no strangers here; only friends you have not met yet.”