But for the Grace of God Go I


Lost Mule Lodge

…a journey that began with a cabin in the woods


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I grew up hearing this phrase ….  “But for the grace of God go I.”  Those words had a tremendous impact on my life. Perhaps we listen more carefully to words that are muttered, and not spoken directly to us. Words that are not for our ears but just an utterance to get our attention.  My grandma and I would be driving down the street, singing along to the oldies and chomping on our juicy fruit gum and her laughter would suddenly cease – and I would hear her solemnly speak these words to herself, “But for the grace of God go I”.  I would look out the car window to see what it was that she had just seen.  It would only take a glimpse and I would know exactly what my grandma meant by that phrase.

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From an early age I spent a great deal of time with my grandparents on their little farm in a very poor rural community.  Our closest neighbors lived across the street from our barn in a little shack.  Beginning at the age of about 6, I would make a weekly trek up to this shack. I would hear the sounds of the corrugated metal creaking and flapping in the wind.  It was a patchwork of mismatched pieces of tin in various stages of rust. The door would bounce against my knocking.

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A weather beaten mom and her 3 little children, 2 toddler girls and a baby boy lived inside.  I would hand her the basket my grandma had prepared for them.  As she would unload the basket of food, I would quietly soak in this family and their lives.  There were no interior walls, no windows, no electricity and no furniture.  Just a pile of blankets in the corner where they all slept and a wood stove chugging warmth into their tiny space.  You could see the same rusted pieces of metal on the inside of the walls that were on the outside.

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Their floor was dirt.  There was a glossy shine to that dirt floor from being packed so hard.  In the winter the 3 kids would be huddled under the heap of blankets in an effort to find warmth in each other. There was a man, but I never saw him inside.  He was always outside, chopping wood in winter or using their mule to tend the garden in the warmer months.

When the contents of the basket was emptied onto her shelf, she would express her sincere gratitude and send me on my way back up the street toward my grandparents house.

Sometimes, when my grandma and I would drive down the street & across the creek – her singing would stop – I would look out the car window and see the weather beaten mom washing laundry in the creek while her little ones bathed.  I can still hear my grandma’s voice muttering “But for the grace of God go I”.

Hearing her words from an early age helped me learn to have empathy for others.  When hearing this phrase, your mind takes you to that place of those who are afflicted, broken or less fortunate.  I would continue to visit this family in their little tin shack each week for the next 3 years. Their lives are seared in my memory.

This Thanksgiving holiday – Take a moment to be grateful for all you have and remember those less fortunate.

Special thanks to my grandma for teaching me the meaning of

“But for the grace of God go I.”

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11 Comments

    • teresa.peters@live.com

      Thank you my little blog sister, I am so glad my grandma gave me this task, many others may sheltered their children from this family. But my weekly visits taught me that they were a good family – just down on their luck. To this day I can visualize the sadness in each set of those eyes. I do not know what circumstances landed them there. I would like to think it was temporary.

    • teresa.peters@live.com

      Maddy – You know there is an HBO Documentary about that town… It is called Rich Hill – As most HBO Documentaries – it is very well done. The documentary is current and my memories go back a few years, but the lives are the same.

  1. Ellen

    That is truly a heart felt story. Sounds like the Peters family was taught a similar story about a family in their neighborhood with the same bad luck. Makes us proud of our men that they have such empathy, too.

  2. Vicki Norris

    As always, your story has touched me deeply. You have a way with words like no other person I know. Thank you for once again reminding me of the things I am grateful for.

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