Life Lessons from the Front Porch
What does it mean to “know” something? Great thinkers and philosophers have been debating this from time immemorial. There is even a branch of study devoted to this. It is called epistemology. The study of how it is that we really know that we know.
If you know something, but that “something” is not true, do you really know it?
Don’t get your brain tied up in pretzel knots over this. This post isn’t really about debating the essence of “knowing.” It’s actually about something that happened on the front porch.
Here’s what happened.
My front porch is one of the seven most peaceful places on this particular planet, and a wonderful place to sit each morning with God and start the day. I sit on the glider (porch swing) and just let the peace soak into every fiber of my being. And fiber is very important to me these days! But that’s another story…
Across the street from me, three groves of trees stand like sheltering giants and provide a wonderful visual juxtaposition – monolithic sno-cones against the skies of deep blue, white, or gray that color the day. The birds have gotten used to my being here, and frequently come to within about four feet of me out in the yard and seem to converse with me. For an urban setting, it really is idyllic.
So here I am – my retired self – sitting on the porch in Nashville, Tennessee like the stereotypical old man in the rocking chair watching the world go by (but secretly basking in the presence of a God who is pouring out His peace). It is a beautiful, perfect spring day – sunny and mild, with a gentle breeze that relaxes me even more than usual. And suddenly my tranquility is shattered by a silver sporty-looking convertible that appears abruptly and screeches to a stop in front of my house. A blond-headed, pony-tailed, barely-twenty-something young woman hops out, runs up onto my porch, and, completely ignoring the hard-to-miss old curmudgeon on the porch glider, jerks open the storm door, and proceeds to turn the door knob and begin to enter my house. I have never seen this person before this moment.
The following conversation ensues.
ME: Um…Excuse me, but who are you and WHAT are you doing?
SHE: (Rolling her eyes) Hell-LO!! I’m going into the house, obviously!
ME: And why would you DO that?
SHE: (Again with the rolling of the eyes) I’m here to see Kathy. She told my just to come on in. Don’t worry. It’s FINE!
ME: It’s not fine with ME. There is nobody named Kathy who lives here.
SHE: (Spoken in an incredibly condescending tone while wagging her head) YES. THERE. IS. I’ve been here PLENTY of times, and THIS is where Kathy lives!
SHE: (The exasperation is building. She is obviously in a hurry and has no time for this idiot who is nothing more than an interruption and obstacle in her day. This is, after all, about her, and has nothing to do with me.) YES, REALLY!
ME: What is the street address of Kathy’s house?
ME: And what is the address on that large plate just to the left of the door you’re trying to open?
ME: And what does that tell you?
SHE: OKAY!!! FINE!!
With that she slams the storm door, turns and flounces back to her car, jumps in, drives two houses down, screeches to a stop, and runs up to the door, where she sees Kathy. I can hear her talking, as she says, “I was trying to get to your house, but some guy was giving me a hard time.”
Every time I think about that, I just laugh and shake my head. No apology, no awareness of her intrusion into my world, or her rudeness. No awareness of any inconvenience her behavior might have caused anyone else. And the comment to Kathy. Hilarious.
I could almost hear her thinking, “If he had just let me get on with going inside and looking around, I probably would have noticed after 10 minutes or so that I was at the wrong place! But, NO, he’s gotta be all like ‘what do you think you’re doing?’”
Notice what happened here.
She absolutely KNEW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she was at the right house, and, despite the large body of evidence to the contrary, was prepared to strenuously, steadfastly, rudely, and condescendingly, argue the point.
She KNEW. But she was wrong. And all her knowing didn’t change the truth.
Life always has something to teach us if we are listening.
Here are some possible take-aways from this odd little incident:
- Knowing something doesn’t necessarily make it true
- Be open to the possibility that you may not have all the information you need
- Be open to the possibility that the information you have may not be entirely correct
- People may not like you walking into their house unannounced, particularly if they don’t know you
- Address numbers on houses can be important clues
- Rudeness, arrogance, and condescension may not always be the best approach in dealing with people you don’t know
- It might just be possible that not every challenge in your little world is a conspiracy to keep you from getting to lunch or the mall with your girl friends as quickly as you want
- If you have to be in a hurry, it doesn’t hurt to be nice about it
- There is such a thing as absolute truth. Kathy doesn’t live in EVERY house
- Despite what you’re sure you know, the old guy on the porch swing just might own the house. Just sayin’…
Very good observations. If you know something but it isn’t truth, you really don’t know it. Thankfully Jesus is the Truth!