3 min read

Have a porch party and hang out with the characters.

At the desk, 9:08 a.m.

Last night, we had our first porch party of the summer. The idea is to invite the neighbors over on a random Thursday for wine, snacks, and chat. We had a really fun party at the end of the summer last year. Though everyone promised to host the next one, our party ended up being our only porch party endeavor.

And let's face it, interacting with the neighbors isn't easy. The only real thing you have in common is the fact that you live on the same block. There's always someone who is happy to tell you they have much more important things to do than get together with you. There are those who promise to come, talk about what they want to do at the party, then don't show up or worse, get together with other no shows to have their own party which they brag about on Facebook. Erg.

There's the guy who talks too much. The gal who drinks too much. The super conservative guy who spouts the opposite nonsense as the super liberal guy. Every comic book character in the dictionary lives on your street. When you have a porch party, all of those characters show up out of costume. You never know who or what is going to happen.

Having a porch party forces you to look at people who are different from you as human beings.

Let's face it. It's a lot easier to spend time with people online. In the first place, when the guy starts talking nonsense you can a) unfriend him or b) block him. You don't ever have to chat with anyone you don't want to chat with. You don't need to hear long stories about cats or dogs or tornadoes or Arkansas or ...

Online, you can filter your world so that you only interact with people you agree with, people (or their avatars) who look like you, people who are only kind or inspirational or artistic or political or gay or straight or right wing or left wing or... Online, you can only interact with people who are just like you.

That's a hell of a lot easier than sitting on the porch feeding and pouring wine for someone spouting political theories you hate.

In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the power of thin-slicing - the human ability to find patterns in events based only on narrow windows of experience. This of it this way, when you were a child, you learned what a cup was. The cup that was your cup was the only cup in the world. As you grew and learned, you learned that cups could be big or small or tall or fat. A cup could be called a mug or a glass and still be a cup. Thus, by the time you're thirty, you see a cup and you know that it's like a mug and a glass and all the cups you knew before. Thin-slicing is what allows you to look at an object, a person, an experience, a sound and instantly match it up with your past experience.

When we fill our world with people who are just like us or seem just like us, our capacity to tolerate someone that's different decreases. We reject the different and return our attention on the familiar.

And our world gets smaller. The smaller our world becomes, the more we reject. The more similar our experience is with people, the more we are going to reject people who are different from you. I mean literally - live an all white life, you will reject the next person who is not white. The same holds true for an all black life, an all Hispanic life, an all red neck life, an all evangelical live, or... Fill you life with (check the box) and, sooner than you think, you will not tolerate anything else.

It's very simply how we are made.

So we have porch parties. We sit down with people who are different from us. For a few hours, once a month, we expand our experience.

And the next time, our neighbor is walking past our house, they don't see so different. They wave and say hello, talk about the weather or the roses, and move on. That's the world I want to live it.

For the effort, frustration, and unease, it's worth it. I'd encourage you to try it and let me know what you think.