Congeniality in Cape Girardeau

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A college friend with whom I keep in touch on an irregular basis once told me that it didn't really matter where someone lived. To his way of thinking, "Every place is the same." Same problems, same people. Only the addresses are different.

Oh, I'm not so sure about that. Ancient Israel thought Jerusalem was pretty swell. There are many psalms written in lament about that city. You read the words and get the impression that life won't be the same until the people get back to what was called "the city of David."

Well, I rise in praise of a place I think is pretty swell: Cape Girardeau. For me and mine, it's unlike any other place we have ever lived.

During our first year in Cape Girardau, one of my tires went flat at my home. To get a tire off my foreign car, you must use a security lug nut. As you've already deduced, I couldn't find it. Without the security lug nut, the tire stays on and we don't have use of the vehicle. I called the dealership that sells the make of my car. Yes, the answer came back, that lug nut is in stock. Presupposing that it would be necessary to get to the dealer to pick up that vital widget, I asked whom I should talk to about acquisition upon arrival. "Oh, there's no need for that," the technician replied. "I can have someone there in 10 minutes. Would that be all right?"

The automotive technician actually beat me to my home. With surprise and gratitude, I paid him for the part and said, "I can handle it from here."

"No need," came the reply. "I've got a lift with me; we'll have you changed out in no time." He declined my offer of a tip.

As the tech was leaving, I said, "You know, I wouldn't have gotten this kind of help in St. Louis." To which my weekday angel replied, "Well, you're not in St. Louis, are you?"

Boy, with all due respect to our big city to the north, isn't that the truth. I received more evidence of Cape Girardeau's special quality just last week. I ran out of gas on Highway 74 not far from the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge. (Why are so many of my troubles automotive in nature?)

I trudged off to the nearest filling station in the rain with no umbrella and no hat. Not smart. During the short walk to the filling station, someone pulled over and offered me a ride there. After I had purchased a gas can and filled it with petrol, I headed back. On the way back, someone else pulled over and gave me a lift back to the car. Both drivers were strangers to me. Two offers of rides in five minutes' time. In all the towns in which Lois and I have lived, we have never before witnessed such hospitality.

This kind of thing doesn't easily translate to a colorful, tri-fold brochure for the Chamber of Commerce. But it goes to show that for our family, Cape Girardeau is a special place. God truly walked before us in bringing us here two-and-a-half years ago.

Jeff Long is pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau. Married with two daughters, he is of Scots and Swedish descent, loves movies and is a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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