Cool Encounters by Patty LaRoche

Mollie has a multitude of physical problems including Fibromuscular Dysplasia and Parkinson’s disease. Lael has rheumatoid arthritis. They are long-time friends, and the three of us were together last weekend in Austin, Texas, for Lael’s son’s wedding. Over the years I have watched both friends struggle with their health, refuse to complain, and fight not to give in to—or dwell on– their complications.

My trip to Texas was one of encouraging encounters, no doubt because the Lord wastes no opportunities.

Alone with a woman on the airport shuttle in Kansas City, I complimented her purse (so, so cool), and we began chatting. She works for FEMA. Recently she had helped in the Houston clean-up of a demolished house where she found a purple heart and dog tags from World War II and was able to return them to the aging owner who, as you can imagine, was ecstatic. So was I, after hearing her story.

Walking down the jetway, I struck up a conversation with a young gal who shared that she had never flown before. I told her the flight would be pretty bumpy (As proof, I was putrid green when we landed) and not to be alarmed by it because forty mph winds have a way of testing our stomachs but never the plane.

When I asked if she was on vacation, she answered that she was going to meet her biological father for the first time. Through Facebook, they had linked, and he had sent her a plane ticket. Talk about cool! (Had my connection to Austin not been so tight, I might have hidden behind a pillar in Houston’s baggage claim to eavesdrop.)

Then there was the young executive, returning from a NYC business trip, who sat beside me and proudly shared videos of his one-year-old son eating his first corn dog and later playing with a garden hose. I told him what every grandmother tells a young parent about cherishing every moment because these babies grow up way too fast, etc., etc., etc. Our conversation flitted like a moth to a flame, and I ended up learning he teaches baseball to inner-city children in his spare time. More cool stuff.

Three total strangers had brightened my day, helping somewhat to minimize the airline losing my luggage. Still, the best was yet to come.

Mollie picked me up at the Austin airport, and even though her palsy was more pronounced than I expected, she was upbeat and reassuring, praising God that her disease had claimed only one arm and not two.

My friend invited me to attend her Parkinson’s boxing class which, I learned, slows the progression of the incapacitating disease. I told Mollie that this could be an exercise class where I finally might have a chance!

The technique focuses on both cognitive and physical demands. Some repetitions require counting backward from 100 by three’s. (So, okay, maybe I wouldn’t have a chance after all!) Other actions involve boxing glove strikes numbered for specific positions. Upper-cuts, for instance, is called out by the instructor as “five” for the left hand and “six” for the right hand. And get this! The leader, Dr. Shirley (Chow) had been raised in Fort Scott! Cooler yet.

Mollie encouraged all of the attendees, especially those with advanced deterioration, and it was clear they all loved her and her cheerful attitude. I left there refreshed and not a little sweaty.

The best part about my time with Mollie was to catch up on all she and her husband, Cal, are doing to serve God. They lead Celebrate Recovery meetings, teach Bible studies and are testimonies of a healed marriage because they “got real” with Jesus Christ by understanding the Bible is not a “how to learn to fix yourself” book; rather, it is a “how to learn of God’s mind-blowing love” book. They love God passionately, no matter their circumstances.

And that, Readers, was the coolest part of it all.

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