I’m all about community — I love bringing people together, being part of our neighborhood and the idea that we can all take care of each other. This is exactly why my friend, Jenn, gave me the book “The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard” for my birthday a few years ago.
Here’s information from the book’s web site: Kristin Schell is on a mission to love her neighbors. She put a picnic table in her front yard, painted it turquoise, and began inviting neighbors, friends, and even strangers, to hang out and do life together at The Turquoise Table®. … This led to a movement of Front Yard People — ordinary people who long to create community right where they live.
The Front Yard People concept really resonated with me because my family hosts Front Yard Fridays where we invite neighbors over to hang out and get to know each other.
But the idea of a table — a turquoise table — was intriguing. The layout of our yard doesn’t really lend itself to a full-size picnic table but then I remembered that we had a child-size picnic table tucked away in the backyard that hadn’t been used in years. It was a little unsteady, definitely dirty and wasting away so I brought up the idea of a turquoise table during a family dinner. We decided it was worth sprucing up the table and finding a spot for it in our front yard.
So my husband hauled it out from behind the bushes, cleaned it off and tightened some bolts to make it sturdy. Next, my daughter and I found an old bucket of bright blue paint (we liked the idea of using old paint instead of buying new and figured it didn’t matter if the table was actually turquoise). We spent a sunny afternoon applying a fresh coat of paint for our latest experiment in community building.
We were excited when the table was ready and plopped it in our front yard between the street and sidewalk in our sidewalk strip. My daughter even painted a little welcome sign that was put on the table. It was a bright burst of color and a fun addition to our corner of the neighborhood.
One morning, my daughter and I sat out there. We smiled and waved to a few neighbors who walked by with their dogs and then a cute little toddler came by with her caregiver and they stopped and chatted. Huh, this was working … we had paused our hectic day, went out front and spent time together. We met some neighbors and weren’t distracted by our phones or long to do lists. It felt pretty simple and sweet. I wasn’t sure how often we were going to be able to pull this off but I figured any time would be time well spent.
About a week went by when we headed out for the day and, as usual, I glanced over at our sweet little blue table sitting proudly in our front yard. But when we returned that afternoon, we noticed right away that our table was gone.
Wait, what happened? Where did the table go? Did somebody actually steal our little community builder?
We were so disappointed that someone would take it, but then wondered if someone thought it was a free item we were trying to find a new home for. We live in a neighborhood where quite often someone will put something out on the curb with a big “free” sign on it and people just stop and take the item. In fact, we have done this plenty of times ourselves.
So even though our little experiment was short-lived, we hope that wherever it is, our cheery little blue table is being enjoyed by happy children. Although I was a bit discouraged when this happened, my husband continued to say that we should get another table.
Well, then 2020 descended with COVID-19, sheltering in place and protests across our country. It felt like a crazy time to try and build community but then we realized that maybe it was the perfect time. What if we put another table in our front yard?
We looked at our small front yard with a new perspective and decided we might just be able to put a full-size picnic table out there. We moved a few plants, found a picnic table kit and painted it brown to match our fence (and secured it so it was clear this wasn’t for the taking).
And guess what?! It’s working. My husband and I joke that this is how we go “out” to lunch now (and sometimes our teenage daughters even join us!). We sit out there regularly and it’s easy to wave to neighbors as they drive by or have a conversation with people from a safe, six foot distance in the fresh air. But the best moment yet was when we spied a father and son sitting together laughing and singing and enjoying our new picnic table.
So maybe it wasn’t a crazy time to try and build community — maybe all you need is a table, a smile and a safe distance.