Hosting a Porch Sitting
Hear from our Director of Operations Madison Conrad on her journey to becoming a Porch Sittings host.
I love the imagery associated with Porch Sittings. The name transports me to my grandparents porch, a cup of earl grey tea in hand, listening to the stories of their past and being introduced to their neighbors who popped by to say hi. The songs of cicadas serving as background noise to the laughs shared between family and new friends. It’s the intersection of roots and connecting to the outside world.
It’s that comfort that makes a Porch Sitting with Urban Avenues feel so impactful. The atmosphere shifts when you feel confident that your perspective will be heard, that your questions will be both received well and thoughtfully considered. While those gathered may not be family, there’s a certain kinship between those who are willing to enter in the tough conversations. We face so many issues in the world - racial injustice, political division, broken communities, to name a few. What if we could gather with people who want to be thoughtful about those issues and foster an open dialogue that can unite people? Can honest discussion really bring people together?
The atmosphere shifts when you feel confident that your perspective will be heard, that your questions will be both received well and thoughtfully considered.
I found the vision of a Porch Sitting beautiful and easy to champion; the difficulty lay in reconciling with myself that I could actually be someone to lead these conversations. How can I speak with authority on problems that exceed my ability to solve? In the middle of a troubling 2020, I once again found myself with more questions and hesitancy than I had answers, which unknowingly put me in the best place to co-host a Porch Sitting group.
With the help of my friend and teammate Frances, I found the confidence to step out of the shadows of recruiting and training hosts for other groups and co-host a group with her. After reaching out to friends and acquaintances, we had assembled a group of 12 people that were willing to ask the hard questions of life with us. COVID-19 prevented us from recreating the comfort and coziness of my grandparents’ porch, but thankfully the group’s familiarity with Zoom made the transition to a digital platform comfortable. We gathered on a Thursday evening in September, each illuminated by the computer blue light and safely from the comfort of our own homes.
Our first conversation was directed toward the growing protests, news coverage, and social media influence surrounding race. We began with the simple question, “why now?” Over the course of the next hour and a half, we heard the thoughts and experiences of those in the group. Stories were shared that were, quite frankly, hard to hear but important to hear. Because knowing others’ stories brings us together and shapes our perspective in life-changing ways.
...knowing others’ stories brings us together and shapes our perspective in life-changing ways.
Taking on the role as a Porch Sitting co-host is not about having the answers. It’s about willingness to participate and practice hospitality - creating a space for friends and strangers to come together to grow together. To ask questions. To share experiences. Because if a dozen very different people can approach one another with genuine curiosity and find common ground, then our city is one step closer to a thriving community.