19 September 2003

In Perspective

Originally published in the MSSU student newspaper The Chart, 19 Sep 2003.

Southwestern Missouri is a great place to live. Sure, there are things I would change if I could, but a day like we had last Sunday makes me feel happy with the world.

I spent the whole day at Joplin parks. The weather was amazing. Sunday morning, along with my wife and 16-month-old daughter, I attended a church service in McClelland Park commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther School. We also had a hog roast, picnic games for the kids, singing, reminiscing, and lots of dessert. And I helped park cars before and clean up afterward.

After that my wife and I took our daughter to Parr Hill Park. She had a wonderful time playing in the sand, sliding down the slides, climbing through the tubes.

After a while, her grandparents showed up and we all went out for dinner.

I could have done the same things lots of places—even in Joplin twenty years ago. That is, without the wife and daughter, and with the “rocket slide” at the park instead of the new multi-function climbing equipment on a bed of mulch.

I grew up in this area, but this is not the Joplin I grew up with. There are many more things to do and places to go.

Twenty years ago I might have eaten a slice of pizza and an ice cream cone at Orange Bowl at the mall. The Orange Bowl is gone, but we have Schlotzsky’s, Panera Bread, Japanese and Indian restaurants, coffee shops, and IHOP.

Twenty years ago I might have bought school supplies at Wal-Mart or K-Mart. Today we have Target, Hobby Lobby, Lowe’s and Home Depot, Toys-R-Us, Office Max and Office Depot, and Best Buy.

Twenty years ago I might have complained that there was “nothing to do.” I would have been wrong then, but I would be even more wrong now. In addition to the parks, restaurants, and businesses, we have museums, paintball fields, water parks, festivals, and cultural events.

Last Thursday I stayed home with my daughter while my wife went to hear someone she knows perform a poetry reading at the “open mike” night at Dioko Coffee Co.

Our University is the center of “things to do.” There are two or three events each week connected with the Cuba Semester, and then there are the art shows, sporting events, theatre productions, science fairs, choral and band concerts… I no longer complain that there is “nothing to do,” but instead that I cannot “do” enough of them!

Yes, there are things I would change about this area. The weather is too hot in the summer and often too cold in the winter. We are too far from the ocean and the mountains.

We could use more sidewalks and biking trails. Indoor tennis courts (that I could afford) might be nice, and it would be great if our movie theater showed anything other than Hollywood sequels.

But fall in Joplin is wonderful, and after a day like last Sunday, I can’t complain.