Robin by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Recently I spent three days in Charlotte, North Carolina, with my friend, Robin, who makes me laugh like no one else I know. No matter if we were walking, shopping, eating (too much) or just hanging out, our conversation almost always turned to Jesus. (And yes, many times Jesus and laughter existed on the same timeline.)

Robin constantly seems to be in the middle of a predicament in which God blesses her unexpectedly. Sunday was no exception. Her husband told us about an after-church street fair that “stretched for several blocks.” We both love craft shows where booths line the curbs and you can find anything from yard ornaments to fresh tomatoes to crazy-fun jewelry.

Since Robin is as directionally-challenged as I am, I set my phone GPS on the location, and off we went. About six blocks from her house, Robin put on the brakes. “We aren’t going to get on a FREEWAY, are we?” Yes, we were. Her jolting U-turn, accompanied by “I CAN’T DRIVE ON THE FREEWAY!” let me know that I would need to look for an alternate route.

When we finally did arrive, I noticed the perfect parking spot and told Robin, “We won’t get closer than this.” Her answer shouldn’t have surprised me. “I CAN’T PARALLEL PARK!”

You’re not serious!” I said. “What can you do?” Her answer cracked us both up. “Well, I’ve gotten us this far, haven’t I?” Mind you, this is the same person who drove herself into downtown Charlotte a few weeks ago to listen to a band. When the concert ended and she tried to exit the indoor parking facility, the bar (that prevents cars from leaving until the driver pays) would not go up. Thirty minutes after she had alerted everyone but the F.B.I., a parking attendant was sent to fix the problem. Apparently, Robin was sitting at the entrance where you get your ticket and not the exit where you pay. Need I say more?

Anyway, after finding an easier parking spot, we walked around a bend and up a hill, dodging dozens of bikes and strollers as we did. The first booth was occupied by an elderly man with a cassette player, singing “New York, New York” off-key while reading the words from his I-phone. Not exactly the excitement we anticipated.

Six small tents later—two selling snow cones and the other four handing out health information—the booths ended. I stopped a man walking our direction and asked if there were more up the hill and around the bend. He said the booths were scattered for a few miles and questioned what we were looking for. “Crafts and jewelry and things like that.”

This is a bikeathon and a walkathon,” he responded. “There aren’t any crafts here. Just booths with water and some things for kids to do like chalk painting and bubble blowing.” I turned to Robin and said, “Yes indeedy, you’ve gotten us this far, haven’t you?”

All the way home, driving, of course, on back streets, we laughed, a blessing that exceeded any craft expectations. It wasn’t the only time that day that being in the wrong place was the right thing to do, as we found out later that evening. Robin and I exited a downtown Charlotte restaurant and walked towards our parking garage, my friend insisting that we turn left a block before I thought we should. Soon we passed a homeless man crouched against a building, trying to light a cigarette while clutching a box of cereal. A few steps past him, Robin said, “I can’t go on.” I said that was smart because we were on the wrong street. “No,” she answered. “Did you see how skinny that man was?” (I had not; my priority was to find the garage.) We turned around, gave the man money and hugs, and Robin told him that God loved him. He answered that he wasn’t “a religious person,” but he “sure” was grateful.

See?” Robin said. “We weren’t on the wrong street after all. God wanted us here to meet that poor man.” She was right. I mean, maybe my sweet friend can’t drive on a freeway or parallel park or find a craft fair, but she recognizes God’s presence when I miss it. I think we all know which is more important.

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