Wednesday, June 26, 2013

‘There but for the grace of God go I’

I published this piece last year, and feel the need to post it again.  I'm working with a child with a very serious illness; a child who, when he was healthy, looked eerily similar to my own boy when he was young; a child who should be learning to read and having playdates; a child who is wonderful, loving and fun to talk to.  I have watched this family struggle for a year, constantly fighting battles against his illness; constantly sacrificing.  Their struggle could be my struggle-- but for some random stroke of fate.  I think about this little guy all the time and am so grateful to know him.  

----repost from June 2012

I'm not a religious person in a traditional sense; I'm a lifelong Unitarian Universalist.  "God" is used a word used a bit loosely, there is no creed, and people believe essentially what they want.  Personal theology is more of a journey, not a destination. That being said, I haven't been attending church regularly lately.  Sunday mornings are kind of nice to spend with the family--and honestly, some of the sermons at my church have been a bit dry.  I think I would prefer to go do some public service on Sunday mornings--like serve breakfast in the homeless shelter, or camp out with girl scouts. 

When working in schools as a speech pathologist,  I do struggle with why I was born the way I am for no apparent reason (compared to some families and children I work with). Maybe I should attend church more!  Around me I see poverty, discrimination, disabilities, illnesses,  and at times death of an innocent.   I can't say that my upbringing was exactly ideal, but my resulting adult life seems a bit random on the lucky side.  Why me?
  • Why am I currently so healthy?
  • Why do I have everything I need?
  • Why are my children college graduates?
  • Why do I live in a country where I have so much freedom?
 My luck, of course, could all change tomorrow.  Still, fifty-five years of a relatively untroubled, well-fed, and wealthy life is more than totally most of the Earth's population gets.  I count my blessings each and every day, although  I still don't understand it.  I can only hope that now I approach parents with empathy, and the realization that I could have been in their shoes but for some random stroke of luck, and one day I might need the compassion from a stranger such as myself.  Maybe this ability to reflect will make me a better speech therapist.


  1. Well said, Ruth. I often think the same things, about how a toss of the cosmic dice landed me in such a fortunate position.

    And I sometimes wish we had a better expression than "there but for the grace of God..." because it implies that I got God's grace but the less fortunate ones didn't get (or deserve?) it. What kind of god is that?

  2. Found this blog post on Reddit, and I have to say, as an SLP in the schools, I totally agree with you. Everyday I realize how lucky I am to be healthy, with supportive friends and family, and socially-economically advantaged. We are in the unique position to take these feelings and "pay it forward", if you will, by doing our best for the children and families we work with.

  3. I share your feelings of gratitude and agree with the previous poster that we can and should "pay it forward." Very likely, that underlies the reason we went into the field to begin with, whether consciously or unconsciously. So sorry for the little guy who prompted your post. He is lucky to have you in his life.


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