Saint Peter’s “back-up”

Playl's Ponderings


 “‘scuse me. Where y’all from?”

As we finished our delicious dinner at Charm Family Restaurant, in Ohio Amish Country, a large party seated themselves in the booth next to us. Their appearance revealed they were not Amish. Their accents told us they were not - as my grandmother used to say - “Northerns.” They talked like us!

When we finished our meal and got up to head for the cash register, I addressed them. Couldn’t resist. “Y’all aren’t from around here. Are you? You talk like us. Where y’all from? What part of the South?”

“We’re from Tennessee,” one of the younger gentlemen answered.

“Really? So are we. What part of Tennessee?”

As most of you know, Tennessee is a very wide state. East to West the Volunteer State covers a lot of miles. It’s farther from Mountain City to Memphis than from Mountain City to the Atlantic Ocean or from Memphis to the Gulf of Mexico. Our home, in Bristol, is closer to the Great Lakes and the Canadian border than to the Mississippi River and Memphis.

But they weren’t from Middle Tennessee or West Tennessee, they were from Elizabethton - East Tennessee, our “neighbors just down the road a piece.” What a pleasant surprise. So we interrupted their dessert, chatting for several minutes.

I enjoy greeting folks; talking to people I don’t know; finding out where they’re from. Sammie likes to watch people. I like to talk to them. She says my assignment in heaven will be to greet people at the gate. I’ve always heard that was St. Pete’s job, but maybe I can be his back-up.

Sophie, our four-year-old Boxer, is a great conversation starter.

“Oh, what a beautiful dog! Do you mind if I pet her?” Whether walking her in the neighborhood, a local Lowe’s store, or hundreds of miles from home, she opens the door for me to ask, “Where y’all from?” and offer a parting word, “Have a nice day!”

As I write this, we are vacationing in Williamsburg. Walking Sophie on the grounds of the resort where we are staying, I’ve met folks from all over the country, but it’s especially fun to meet someone “from back home.” I’ve seen license plates from all three West Coast states, from Maine to Florida, and everything in between. But I really enjoyed meeting someone from Kingsport and leaving a note on the windshield of a Bristol car with “Go Vols” on the side and a Tennessee High School Vikings magnet on the back.

It’s so much fun to find out where someone is from and chat or, sometimes, offer words of encouragement. Even more important than where you’re from, though, is where you are headed. For me it is exciting to talk to someone from New Orleans or West Virginia, Ohio or Delaware...and even more exciting to meet someone from “home.” But, again, what really matters is: where is your eternal home? What is your final destination?

Some day - because of God’s grace and the sacrifice of His precious Son - I expect to move from Maryland Avenue in Bristol to a mansion on the golden streets of heaven. I probably will not be standing right behind Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates, but I do hope to greet you somewhere, over there, perhaps on the shores of the Crystal Sea or the River of Life...maybe under the Tree of Life. But somewhere in Heaven I hope to say “hey” to you and yours and ask, “Where y’all from? So glad to see you here!”  

--Steve Playl, columnist, college instructor, retired pastor, and chaplain, may be reached at     


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