Category Archives: Opinion

God Is Always Working by Patty LaRoche

Dave and I left early Sunday morning to drive to our winter home in Mazatlán, Mexico, with high hopes of relaxing, working at the orphanages and catching up with dear friends. We were grateful there were only a few problems (Dallas traffic-NUTS!) in the twelve-hour ride from Fort Scott to Lytle, Texas, where we spent the night, approximately two hours from the border. That evening, friends began texting warnings of Hurricane Willa which was to hit Mazatlán Tuesday evening. We figured that, with an early start on Monday, we could beat the storm and be there mid-day Tuesday to protect our property.

We have no common sense.

Dave and I left Lytle at 7:00 A.M. and two hours later pulled over just short of the immigration office in order to find our passports and documents to present to the guards. Upon NOT finding my backpack which held my passport (not to mention, my laptop and cash), I was a little desperate when I spoke. “Dave, didn’t you say that you were bringing my luggage to the car this morning, and the ONLY thing I was to get was my water bottle?”

I said I would get your suitcase and reminded you to get your water. That didn’t mean that was the ONLY thing you were to get.”

“Swell,” I growled. “My backpack, the backpack that I assumed you carried to the car, is in the hotel room. We have to go back.”

Two hours to return to our hotel. Do the math. An EXTRA four hours of driving before even crossing into Mexico. Dave was nonplussed about the entire ordeal. I wanted to bang my head into the dashboard. Four hours seemed like ten.

Around noon we registered our truck and had our documents approved. At 12:30 we were greeted with the Mexico Red Light, meaning we would be delayed as our vehicle had to be inspected, X-rayed and designated drug-free. So, at 1:30 P.M. instead of 9:00 A.M., we were in Mexico. The hurricane was five hours closer than when we started.

At dark, we settled in a hotel room the size of a storm shelter, figuring we now could arrive in Mazatlán around 4:00 P.M. the following day, beating Willa by five hours. WRONG! Text alerts and emails kept us posted on the dangers ahead. People were evacuating Mazatlán and heading for Durango, a city on the other side of the mountains…the mountains we still needed to cross. Should we proceed, we would be driving into 120 mile-per-hour winds and flooded streets. Electricity would be turned off, water polluted and tree damage severe.

When it dawned on us that we really did lack common sense, Dave and I stopped in Durango to spend the night. From there, we continued to receive the devastating news of what awaited us in Mazatlán. Because our condo is on the bottom floor, I pictured our furniture floating, smashing through windows and drifting into the Pacific. But by morning, the forecast changed. Willa had altered courses and missed Mazatlán completely.

There was more good news. The hotel concierge reported that the toll roads now were open which was fortunate since they had been closed the day before. We couldn’t have made the drive even if we dared to! Today was a different story.

In retrospect, it was a blessing my backpack was left in the Lytle hotel room. Those four hours lost possibly prevented us from determinedly pressing forward on our trip, causing us to be on the mountain pass when it was closed.

I wonder how old I will have to be before I live out Paul’s writing to “give thanks in all circumstances.” I could have spent those four extra hours singing praises to God instead of pouting. I’m expecting there to be many more times of testing before I have the common sense to know that God is always working for good, even when I’m not.

Knowledge Of The Truth by Patty LaRoche

Susan’s friend recently enrolled her three-year old in day care. She was stunned as she filled out the application and found not two but three choices for the sex of the child:

(1). Male (2). Female (3). Undecided

What started as a fun, after-church-pizza-get-together for my friends and I soon morphed into a discussion about what is happening to our country. Gender choices for three-year olds? Have we lost our ever-lovin’ minds?

The same week, a young father I recently met shared that since the beginning of 2018, his wife, a pediatric dentist, has treated three twelve-year-old, transgender children. A few years ago, they were in her records as one gender. Now, the records need to be changed. Parents had given permission for this procedure.

I repeat, have we lost our minds? When my kids were twelve, it was hard for me to let them pick out their own clothes, much less their gender! Twelve-year olds are hormonally challenged, immature and prone to mood swings (which is why, in my opinion, middle-school teachers are saints and totally underpaid. I digress).

I am deeply concerned that we as a nation, like some of these parents, are making critically unwise (irreversible?) decisions that are leading us away from moral authority and ultimately, God. Ethical buttons are being pushed. Too many things make no sense.

We no longer are shocked when public speakers on college campuses are shouted off the dais because their audience disagrees with their position. Louder and meaner wins. Peaceful protests are a thing of the past. Now, stores are looted, cars set on fire and rocks pelted at police.

As I write this, San Francisco city officials are conducting meetings to find answers for homeless people defecating on public streets. One reporter wrote, “This is also often a passive-aggressive payback to a society that shows every day that it doesn’t care about it’s (sic) most vulnerable citizens who I often meet on the street: veterans, disabled, elderly, mentally ill, and mothers with babies.”

My suggestion: Perhaps someone needs to create sanctuary cities for those people instead of for illegals.

Speaking of which…recently, hundreds of illegal immigrants entered the United States, creating a nightmare for those responsible for vetting them. Many children arrived with non-relatives and no paperwork to prove who they are. Once it became apparent they expected to be treated with the same rights as U.S. citizens, a geographical, legal, emotional mess ensued. As I write this, approximately 7,000 more Central American migrants are on their way to our border. Which should prevail, justice or mercy? No one seems to know.

My husband and I cross the border between this country and Mexico two-to-four times a year. Without our legal documents, we would be introduced to an escort service (i.e., armed guards) who would love to hear us demand our RIGHTS. You know, our RIGHT to see what an unairconditioned, dirty, crowded, one-meal-a-day jail is all about.

I fear where all of this will lead. Hopefully to our knees. In 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Paul tells us what we can do. I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

God’s truth. Not the “truth” of people who have lost their ever-lovin’ minds.

Win As Many As Possible by Patty LaRoche

A few months ago, a former classmate and I ran into each other downtown and began discussing our upcoming high school reunion, a conversation that somehow turned into how little we knew about each other’s families, even though we had attended school together for twelve years. She remembered that my father had died when I was young (eight-months old), but not how he died. My knowledge of her family was not much better, for even though we had been best friends in grade school, all I remembered about her dad was that he worked for the railroad and had no sense of smell. “We were so into ourselves,” she said. And I agreed.

Two weeks ago, my high school graduating class celebrated its 50th reunion–which makes no sense, considering I am only 30 years old. (I’m funny.) Anyway, because this was such a special event, a committee of us locals spent several weeks preparing for the celebration, and with our Class of ’68 graduating survivors nearing 165, we counted on large numbers.

Save the Date” postcards were mailed months in advance, but by the registration deadline, only 23 graduates had responded that they would come. Ten of those were on the committee. This was not what we expected. A second email was sent, followed by personal phone calls. A total of 55 registered. A few classmates had health problems that prevented them from attending, but our committee was saddened by those who said that high school was not a good experience, and they had no intention of reliving those years.

Again, not what we expected.

At one of our organizational meetings, we questioned the “Why’s” of such responses. Our committee members had run in different crowds and been involved in various activities during our school years. Two had boyfriends, their primary focus. Still, high school held fond memories for all of us. At one point in our conversation, we questioned if we could have done more to help others have the same kind of experience. I mean, none of us had been unfriendly, but had we been selfishly focused on ourselves?

The answer was obvious.

So, here it is, decades later, and several former classmates still carry the wounds of those years. And even though we cannot turn back the clock and soothe their hurts, we can—and should—learn from this so that today, whatever our circumstance, we become aware of those we encounter who need a kind word or an invitation for a cup of coffee or an opportunity to be valued. Instead of surrounding ourselves with those with whom we are comfortable, maybe it’s time to meet that neighbor who keeps to himself or the cashier at the local convenience store or even an old classmate with whom we have lost contact.

Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:19 are a fresh reminder of what our daily objective should be. “Though I am free, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” In Paul’s early years, he was all about himself. Unlike our committee, his primary focus was to intentionally hurt the Christian community, but once he met Jesus, he cared only about others.

One day, a Heavenly reunion will be held. We Christians carry the invitations for neighbors and pew-mates and random encounters to “Save the Date” as well as the responsibility to follow up with reminders of its importance. None of us want to be the reason someone rejects this eternal opportunity.

What to do?

The answer is obvious.

Obituary of Robert R. Lamb

Robert Ray Lamb, age 88, resident of rural Bronson, KS, died Friday, October 12, 2018, at Medicalodge of Girard, KS.

He was born March 26, 1930, in Bronson, the son of Ray Linus Lamb and Winona Agnes Goodno Lamb. He married Lois Irene Rogers on October 15, 1950, at her family’s home in Bronson.

She preceded him in death on June 17, 2018.

Together, Bob and Lois operated their own dairy farm for many years. Bob loved going to yard sales and farm auctions.

He was an all-around handyman who enjoyed tinkering with mechanical things in his workshop.

Most recently, he regularly attended services at Dry Ridge Baptist Church.

Survivors include two sons, R. W. Lamb, Bronson, KS, and Michael Ray Lamb, Pittsburg, KS; two grandchildren; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. Bob had two sisters, Wanda Braden and Shirley Toon.

Besides his wife Lois, he was preceded in death by his parents.

Pastors Lon Hale, Michael Miller and Mark Davis will conduct funeral services at 10:30 AM Friday, October 19th, at the Cheney Witt Bronson Chapel.

Cremation will follow with private family burial in the Battlefield Cemetery at a later date.

The family will receive friends from 6:00 until 8:00 PM Thursday evening at the Bronson Chapel.

Memorials are suggested to either Dry Ridge Baptist Church or Bronson Baptist Church and may be left in care of the Cheney Witt Bronson Chapel, P.O. Box 93, Bronson, KS 66716. Words of remembrance may be submitted to the online guestbook at cheneywitt.com.

Pray For Mercy by Patty LaRoche

2 Chronicles 7:14 ~ if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 

Mercy Hospital of Fort Scott, we are told, will close its doors at the end of this year. The news causes many to question how a medical facility that, at one time, was touted as being one of the most respectable, highly-sought providers of medical care in southeast Kansas will no longer exist. Community members are stunned by this decision and saddened for the future of those faithful employees who no longer will have a job.

It is time to pray.

It is time we take this loss to our Heavenly Father and ask Him to perform a miracle. Blaming the powers-that-be or welfare recipients or drug addicts or insurance companies is a natural response (and just a few I have heard), but our best chance to give Fort Scott a chance to resolve this earthly crisis is to pray.

Will you join me in doing that? Today? Right this moment and every time you think of this loss? Will you give God a chance to be God?

You know…

The same God who created the world…and you?

The same God who made it possible for a 90-year old woman to give birth?

The same God who parted the Red Sea for the Israelites and provided manna to them for 40 years?

The same God who delivered Daniel from the snares of the hungry lions?

The same God who joined three faithful men to save them in a fiery furnace?

The same God who sent his son, fulfilling hundreds of Old Testament prophecies, to save this world?

And, if you are reading this article, the same God who has given you another day of life?

God is not surprised by Mercy Hospital’s decision to close. He is not pacing Heaven’s golden streets, wringing His hands, trying to figure out what His next move will be. Quite the opposite, according to evangelist Alan Redpath who wrote the following in the 1950’s: “There is nothing—no circumstance, no trouble, no testing—that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment. But as I refuse to become panicky, as I lift up my eyes to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disturb me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret—for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is!”

Re-read 2 Chronicles 7:14. Let us not waste our time fretting. Let us humble ourselves and seek God’s face, repent and trust that God waits for us to rely on Him.

Let us pray.

Miss God’s Will For Your Life? By Patty LaRoche

Sometimes I question if I missed God’s will for my life. What if the choices I made were not God’s best for the Kingdom? I mean, what if God really wanted me to become a lawyer who would fight for those who had been incorrectly incarcerated? I do like to argue and to be a hero, so maybe that was the direction I was to take. Or what if I should have been a horse trainer? How could someone love horses like I do and not use that passion? Then there always is the paramedic profession. Granted, I once performed the Heimlich on a lady who, as it turned out, wasn’t choking, but perhaps I could redeem myself.

Do you ever waste your time with such senseless questions? Paul, a “servant of God,” certainly had the opportunity to do just that. In Acts 16: 6-8, Luke writes this:

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.  When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.  So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.

Did you catch it, or did you blow right past it like I did the first dozen times I read it? This is not a leisurely stroll on the local jogging trail. Historians write that Paul’s journey involved thousands of miles of walking, all while trying to figure out what God wanted him to do. I’m frustrated, just thinking about it. Then we come to verse nine:

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Hooray! Celebration time! Finally, a clear direction from God. Strap on your worn-out sandals, Paul. God has plans for you and your friends to tell others about His Son. You soon will be able to sit around a few campfires and share your faith!

Uh, maybe not. Time (perhaps weeks) goes by with no clear opportunity. In fact, the only significant occurrence in scripture is the appearance of a fortune teller who keeps irritating Paul and his companions. No doubt his nerves are a little frayed when he says to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” Which it does.

Good, spiritual move, Paul… until that is, the locals take exception to this exorcism, drag Paul and Silas before the city officials, strip them, “severely” flog them, bind them in chains and throw them into the inner dungeon of the prison. Now, if I’m Silas, I’m going to be looking for a new BFF, and if I’m Paul, I’m going to be throwing a hissy fit to God. And I’m definitely going to be questioning if I missed God’s call on my life.

Not on their eternal radar.

Verse 25-26: And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bands were loosed.

Read the rest of Acts 16. Because of this incarceration, the jailer (and his family) become Christians, and soon a solid Christian community is formed.

We, like Paul, never know how God is using us, but one thing is for certain. No matter what our circumstances, no matter what job we have or the spouse we have chosen or where we live or what problems we are dealing with, God can use us. And if our life isn’t working out like we originally thought it would?

Paul has the answer.

Praise God!

City of Fort Scott Responds to Mercy Shut-Down

First off, the City would like to recognize the incredible effort by all of the Mercy employees and it’s local leaders.

1886.

That is the year the first Mercy hospital opened and we have been blessed to have their services.  The tireless effort of these employees proves the strong community character of Fort Scott.

What makes Fort Scott a great place is the people. Our people have seen this town thrive, face challenges, and rebound like never before.

Fort Scott continues to see remarkable industry growth with the addition of over 800 jobs within the last 5 years.  Over a 24% increase in the hourly median wage.  In addition to the commercial investment with employer expansions, the residential investment has grown by 45% within the last two years.

Fort Scott is home to generations of families.

People who have been raised here and are returning home to raise their families.

People who have gone to the Community College here and choose Fort Scott as their home.

We have a district-wide student to teacher ratio of 13 to 1.  An aquatic center which opened in 2012.  One of the top 10 best public golf courses in the state.  A 360-acre lake for fishing, boating, and recreation.  Over 7 miles of bike trails within Gunn Park which is home to 7 shelter houses, 2 fishing lakes, playground areas, and a 9 hole Frisbee golf course.  A state of the art baseball facility featuring a 1,200 seat stadium, 2 indoor batting cages, clubhouse with lockers and lounge, turf infield and grass outfield.

Fort Scott has tremendous community pride.  The City intends to support our residents in every way possible through this transition.

Robert Uhler, Community Development Director, Rachel Pruitt, Economic Development Director, and Dave Martin, City Manager are actively working on solutions and have been pleased with the outreach of interested parties.

Our citizens work hard and deserve affordable healthcare.  We are confident Fort Scott will overcome this challenge and continue to be a great place to work and raise families.

 

Respectively –

 

Economic Development

City of Fort Scott

Fake Money by Patty LaRoche

With Dave asleep and my ten-dollar-missionary-money due at this morning’s Bible study, I needed to retrieve my emergency stash from its hiding place. Imagine my surprise when I found not only a ten-dollar bill but a onehundred-dollar one as well. It was Christmas in September! I happily stuffed the money into my purse, headed to the Bible study and placed my $10 in the missionary collection.

Following that meeting and returning home to organize my day, I could hardly wait to share with my (now) awake husband about my windfall. This was happy news for Dave. He asked if I would exchange that bill for five-twenties. No big deal. It all spends the same. Dave handed me the twenties, and I gave him the $100 bill. He paused, rubbed it with his fingers and immediately appeared to lose his happiness. Holding the bill close to my face, Dave pointed out that I had missed one teensy, weensy matter, like the faded words “Play Money” stamped next to Benjamin Franklin’s picture. (And yes, if you are wondering, there was a certain “I think you have done this intentionally and find this funny” tone to his voice.)

Which was ridiculous. This was not Monopoly money. These bills were made to look real, and other than their size, thinness and that nearly invisible “Play Money” wording, could fool anyone…well, except Sherlock Dave.

Thankfully, I had not tried to pass my counterfeit find off at Price Chopper, the top of my errand list. But then it dawned on me. What if my $10 missionary payment also was play money? And what if next Monday, Billie Jo Drake, our Bible study leader, held it up and asked if anyone in our group was missing a fake, ten-dollar bill? Yikes!

When Dave realized that I was clueless (Save your comments), he seemed stunned that I had made such a careless mistake. (Seriously? We’ve been married 45 years. He should be used to this by now). Still, my immediate problem was not my husband; it was having to admit to Billie Jo that I was an idiot. My happiness, like the Play Money wording, was fading. Could I somehow avoid this phone call? Pride sure wanted me to.

I reminded myself that little things like repenting to Bible study leaders is minor compared to acknowledging my failings to God, even though He knows about my sins (and yours—you’re not off the hook here) before I even commit them. Which, when you think about it, should make contrition rather easy. And it would be, were it not for Pride.

Blame it on Adam and Eve. They were the ones who originally disobeyed and hid from God instead of repenting, and since Pride worked so well in the Garden of Eden, maybe that is why Satan relies on it being just as effective today. But there is hope! Even though erring is part of our sinful condition, repenting is a privilege of our Christian condition.

It’s true. God doesn’t bang His head on a table when His children mess up. He knows what we are going to do before we do it. All He asks is that we ask for forgiveness.

It was time to call Billie Jo and…Gulp… try to explain what I had done. She was gracious, checked the bills and told me that none were phonies. I thanked her (and Jesus) and hung up. Hubby wasn’t quite so understanding. He stood there with his hand outstretched, expecting me to give back his twenty-dollar bills and definitely not happy that he had been had…proving my point that no one is exempt from Pride.

Gracie by Patty LaRoche

Gracie loved putting on her sunbonnet, grabbing her decorated basket and picking strawberries in her backyard. When her parents, John and Erin, learned that their precious two-year-old, Downs syndrome daughter had leukemia, their time spent in the Houston hospital almost equaled that of caring for their other two young children. Little did they know, that was as good as it would get. Still, the parents’ faith did not waiver, as Dave and I witnessed when we became a part of their weekly Bible study. On one of Erin’s middle-of-the-night runs to the emergency room with Gracie, an inattentive nurse left the mother-daughter pair alone for hours in the examination room. By the time Erin was allowed to take her child to the oncology floor, Gracie’s heart stopped. Doctors worked for twenty minutes to revive her, but Gracie was left with a severe brain injury.

Many encouraged John and Erin to file a lawsuit. After much prayer, they chose instead to ask the hospital for free access to bless the families of the other oncology children on that ward. The hospital agreed. His Grace Foundation was formed, and money raised went to providing support, gifts, meals, and parking for the parents. That program continues today.

Fast forward fifteen years. Now living in Georgetown, Texas, Erin visited Brookwood, a community of disabled adults in Brookshire, Texas, and was determined to create such a place in her area. In 2011, Brooktown in Georgetown (BIG) opened and began to provide meaningful work, a sense of belonging, dignity, and respect for adults with functional disabilities.

Gracie was enrolled in the public school. Wheelchair-bound, on a feeding tube and unable to talk, she became the delight of the other 3,000+ students in her school. As a senior, she was voted Homecoming Queen, an event carried by major news stations. (See insert.)

 

Last week, when Gracie’s color changed and her perpetual smile disappeared, Erin took her to the E.R. where a cat scan showed no problems. Gracie was sent home, but that night, when her breathing slowed, John and Erin drove their daughter back to the hospital. This time, the news was not good. Gracie had sepsis. Emergency surgery came too late.

Family members were called. Gracie’s sister was two hours from returning to her missionary job in Africa. Others were within driving distance. They praised God when they all made it to the hospital in time, and after singing hymns around Gracie’s bed, Gracie died.

Her aunt, Mollie, penned these words to God in her blog this morning: “I am convinced she (Gracie) had the benefit of enjoying a preview of heaven at three when she had no heartbeat for 20 minutes. I think she saw glorious things she simply could not un-see. Although Gracie returned to us without language we could clearly understand, she never needed words to worship You. After her experience with You “outside” her body, Gracie’s exquisite response to even the mention of Your name was unbridled bliss…I want to be more like Gracie. I want to be fully dependent on You experiencing the unbridled bliss of Your presence. In my utter weakness, please be my boundless strength.”

I pray God does the same for all who mourn the loss of this precious young woman.

I

Bonkers by Patty LaRoche

 

San Francisco has once again made the news. And no, I am not talking about the homeless people using the sidewalks as their personal restrooms; the City Commission is working on a solution to that. I’m referring to its new “No-Shame Dress Code” for its public- school students. August 24th’s USA Today reported that the school district has adopted a policy loosening its clothing code so that students can…well, loosen theirs.

Before going bonkers like I did, be comforted that the school board members have mandated that certain items must be worn: bottoms; tops; shoes; clothing that covers genitals, buttocks and nipples. Okay, go bonkers. Ask yourself, like I did…

Have any of these decision-makers read 1 Timothy 2 which addresses dressing with modesty and self-control?

New to the list of clothing students may wear are midriff-baring shirts, pajamas, and halter tops/ strapless tops. Still, there are restrictions: no bathing suits, visible underwear or clothing with pornographic messages are allowed. At least, not for this year.

Steven Fong, the district’s chief academic officer, spoke about the benefits. “We believe these changes will reduce inequitable and unnecessary discipline and help us maximize learning time. Districts across the country are adopting similar revisions for similar reasons. We are excited to be moving forward with a such a student-centered approach.” Other areas are getting on board. California’s Alameda School District “rejects the idea that certain students’ bodies are distracting and therefore must be monitored and covered.”

Bonkers! Bonkers! Bonkers!

According to this article, “Opponents of strict dress codes say punishing students for their clothing is a form of shaming that can result in body-image issues.” The answer? Let students pretty much wear what they want.

Get that? Enter a classroom with your belly hanging over your belt and a cleavage-showing strapless top, and your body-image is going to be “validated” by other students? I have news for these rules-makers. Body-image issues will be magnified, not minimized.

The way people dress is a major indicator of how they feel about themselves, not to mention, preparation for future employment. Try walking into a Walmart interview in your pajamas and tell me how that works for you. In my opinion, if San Francisco really cared about “validating” its students, it would require school uniforms. You know, where everyone looks relatively alike, thereby reducing the competition to one-up each other and actually meeting Fong’s goal to “reduce inequitable and unnecessary discipline and help us maximize learning time.”

I am so thankful I live in an area where a school dress code is in place, where school board members give teachers one less ambiguous issue to discipline, where a moral code dictates policy instead of relying on a “student-centered approach.” (You know, where mature adults know when and when not to acquiesce to students’ wishes.)

I pray that Christians in San Francisco rise up and make their voices heard and recognize this dress code solution is a dangerous slippery slope (knowing those slides never seem to move in the direction of morality).

Maybe it’s time they even go a little bonkers.

Cruise by Patty LaRoche

My college sorority friends and I decided this, our 50-year reunion, would be “special”: We would take a cruise to Alaska. What we did not anticipate were the awaiting challenges, like how Carol broke her tooth the night before our trip but decided Orajel and pain killers would dull the ache. For the first four days, that seemed to work. Unfortunately, it was a seven-day voyage.

Since Diana is wheelchair and walker-dependent, she brought along her therapist to share her handicap-equipped room…which was anything but geared for a handicapped person. Seriously. How can a “Handicap” room be too small to accommodate a wheelchair?

Six of us spent our first night in Seattle. For $238 a room (thankfully, split between three of us), we experienced a night in a nasty hotel. Nasty, as in bugs and scalding water. Regardless, we refused to let that dull our excitement for this once-in-a-lifetime trip!

Morning #1: we were awakened by a text that Diana had fallen and was being gurneyed to the ship’s infirmary. She returned in a medical boot to protect her broken foot. Because this was her “good foot”—the other one cannot support any weight—it took six of us using a lift sheet to transfer her to a wheelchair and, whenever her feet swelled, back to bed. There would be no sightseeing or shopping for our dear friend.

Morning #2: Juneau was our first stop where we had paid extra for an excursion to two sites: one to watch whales and the other to view the Mendenhall Glacier…which I imagine is quite spectacular, had it not been for the endless rain and thick fog. Still, from inside our whale-viewing boat where we were protected from the elements, we learned much from our marine biologist guide who demonstrated the intricacies of the humpback, using her seven-inch plastic replica. Diana’s two daughters (who also were on the cruise) weren’t even that lucky; they had booked a helicopter Iditarod dog excursion, but because of the weather, their trip was canceled. They stayed behind to care for their mother.

Morning #3: due to unusually rough waves, two of the girls ended up in bed, sea-sick. I attempted the treadmill.

Use your imagination.

Morning #4: We docked at Sitka and were bussed to the small village where we saw a thirty-minute, all-women, Russian dance troupe. For clarification, these were neither Russian nor professional but were volunteers on their lunch breaks. (This time, an upbeat imagination is required.) That night on the ship we danced to a fantastic “Oldies” band but had to stop when the rough seas caused us to lose what little balance we have left. Following that hour of excitement, three girls had to ice their knees and could walk only short distances for the duration of our trip.

On Day #5, the fog lifted and we were able to sit outside on the large deck and play dominoes. At that time, everything was put into perspective. One of the girls began sharing how the ice packs had not helped her hurting knee. Diana spoke up–you know, the Diana in the wheelchair who can’t walk. “Every time I start to feel sorry for myself, I thank Jesus because I know so many people have it so much worse than I do.”

Here is a woman who loves God passionately, who, because medicine was incorrectly prescribed for her now lives in a residential facility, who had to give up her job, who chokes when she eats, whose shoulders and legs have atrophied, yet she reminded us that things weren’t nearly as bad as we made them out to be.

And if that isn’t a “special” message, I don’t know what is.

Those People by Patty LaRoche

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my experience while working alongside Misty, the kitchen director, in a homeless shelter. Referring to the ones she served, Misty reminded me that any one of “us” could end up like “them.”

She is right, of course. Every one of us, if broken enough, is vulnerable. That message was reinforced a few days ago when I ran across sociologist Brene Brown’s TED talk which addresses this heartbreaking issue. “Most of us are one paycheck, one divorce, one drug-addicted kid, one mental health diagnosis, one serious illness, one sexual assault, one drinking binge, one night of unprotected sex, or one affair away from being “those people”—the ones we don’t trust, the ones we pity, the ones we don’t let our children play with, the ones bad things happen to, the ones we don’t want living next door.”

Possibly some of you readers have no idea what Brown is talking about. I do. And so do many of my friends who are praying for a loved one who is making destructive choices: to drink too much; to “shop-‘til-they-drop”; to have sex with multiple partners (I am witnessing to one such person now); to refuse Christian counseling; to click on porn; to ignore the needs of their spouse and children; to turn their backs on God.

The list is endless.

Last week I wrote about “Agnes,” a homeless woman I encountered who spends much of her day on a bench near the ballpark where my husband works. For over a month I have tried to help her. Her only possession seems to be a ragged Kleenex which she uses to dab the sweat from her brow. She doesn’t want water. Or food. Or clothes, even though the pants she wears (every single day) have an 18” hole in the back of them. She doesn’t want a ride to the new, $20 million women’s shelter located two miles from where she hangs out. So, when all my offers failed, I called a police hotline and was told an officer would pick Agnes up and take her to the shelter.

The next day, when Agnes’ bench was empty, I celebrated, only to be disheartened within 24 hours when she was back at her usual spot. When I stopped to check on her, she told me that her credit cards “are in a red window” and she “can’t get them out.” On one visit, she shared that she and her “group are fine.” I questioned what “group” she meant, and she said, “They are here.” I left, frustrated and sad.

Because of Agnes and the dozens of homeless who live in my neighborhood, I volunteered to work at the nearby homeless shelter (Aug. 18 article). There were two interviews before I officially was vetted, and at my first meeting I described Agnes to the director and asked if she knew her. She did. Her answer should not have surprised me. “Some people are so mentally ill, they don’t want to be helped. The volunteers can’t make someone take a shower or change clothes or come to a class on how to find a job.”

All she has to do is ask,” I was told.

Which, when you think of it, is all I had to do—to ask if I could help.