After some deep thought and scribbling notes on a napkin about ways to improve community spirit, you design a flyer, head to the local Kinkos and launch “Susan’s Front Porch – Community Story Night.”
At first, it’s just a few families that attend. They lay their blankets on your front yard, bring picnic baskets, pop open a bottle of wine, and listen to individuals from your neighborhood, each taking turns telling stories on your front porch.
Word spreads in a small town, and soon you have 40 to 50 families every Tuesday night gathering in your front yard, listening to individuals from all over your community as they take to your porch, one at a time, to share stories, anecdotes, and jokes.
You’re thrilled to be able to provide a venue for your friends and neighbors. You start baking and selling honey biscuits from a concession stand that your son built with his two cousins.
Pretty soon, “Susan’s Front Porch” is the place to be! You open your yard and porch to the community 3-times a week. Your honey biscuits are flying out of the concession stand faster than frisbees in a tornado – Life is good!
One day, a new guy (let’s call him Don) comes to your event. He takes to the stage and launches into a boisterous, funny, off-color rant. He’s quite charismatic, a bit politically incorrect, but a big hit with a segment of the audience.
Before you know it, Don becomes a regular on your porch. People from outside your small-town travel hundreds of miles to catch him telling stories and cracking jokes.
One day, Don takes to your porch and starts bemoaning about a new restaurant that opened a few weeks ago in your town.
“Where do these Greeks get off opening a restaurant in the good ole USA?” he snarls.
“Not enough opportunity in Greece?? They have to come to our town and put Americans out of work?? That’s what’s wrong with this country today – too many Greeks, not enough real Americans!!”
A nervous and hushed laughter hangs over the blankets on your sun splashed lawn.
Then someone in the back shouts “Yeah, what’s up with the Greeks???” And before long, others are joining in, yelling profanities about the Greeks and their restaurant.
But here’s the thing, you know the Greek family who opened that restaurant. They go to your church. They’re new to the restaurant business, but have lived in your town for many years and are well-loved members of the community.
After Don finishes his set, you approach him.
“That was pretty funny, but I know the family who runs that restaurant and they are very fine people, hard-working Christians as a mater of fact. And actually, the husband and wife are naturalized US citizens, so your story was not only a little offensive, but false.”
Don looks at you for 5 to 10 seconds without saying a word, then says:
“I thought Susan’s Porch was part of the USA? – You know, the free speech capital of the world?”
Nervously, you say, “Well, yes, it is, but I don’t want to make people fearful or uncomfortable”.
In an off-handed way Don says, “Sure, I get it Sue, have a good night.”
The following week, Don gets on stage and starts telling a story on how that new Greek restaurant is a front for a child sex-trafficking ring and drugs. He heard that from a very reliable source. The folks on your front lawn start looking around at each other in disbelief (Could this be true??).
Then, again, from way in the back:
“Yeah, I heard that as well!”
Before you know it, 50 to 75 people are yelling and screaming about the Greek family – and how they can’t do that in our community!!
Several of the more agitated men, jump in their trucks and head downtown.
They burst into the restaurant and kill the owner. Shooting him in the face as his son looked on in horror.
So, do you ban Don from telling stories on your front porch – or do you let him continue next week, when he plans to rant and rave about the new Chinese restaurant?