Before being exiled five hundred miles from home to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in September of 1964, I had never heard of saying grace. This was because Dad was an atheist and Mom was nominally Lutheran. In this excerpt from Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), I described my reaction when I was suddenly confronted with this alien custom.
Miss Boyce woke us up the next morning promptly at seven and told us to dress. When I saw the boys lining up in the hall, I joined them.
“You boys with sight hold the hands of the boys who don’t,” Miss. Boyce directed. I did as she said and waited.
Next, our supervisor led us down a road to a white and teal-coloured dilapidated building with grey shingles.
“That’s the Dining Hall,” one of the boys informed me.
The structure was similar to a gymnasium. Its vaulted ceiling and walls were painted pink. I felt the floor shake alarmingly as we walked across the brown linoleum to our tables.
I forget what we ate but it was most likely the usual porridge and toast with hot chocolate.
I was about to place a spoonful of porridge in my mouth when a boy said, “Uuuuuuuuuummmm! You’re supposed to wait until we say grace!” Not only did I not know what he meant but he had that gleeful tone in his voice which said he caught me committing a mortal sin.
“What’s grace?” I inquired.
“We have to thank God for our food or we’ll get in trouble.” I immediately put down my spoon and stared covetously at my breakfast.
After we waited for what seemed like ages, we all said the simple prayer: “God is good, God is great, Let us thank him for our food, Amen.” Waiting to eat and then saying a prayer seemed odd to me. I supposed that it was merely one of those activities I would have to endure until I returned home that afternoon.
Instead of returning home after school, as I did when I attended Park Elementary in my home town of Fort Saskatchewan, , the Government of British Columbia kept me at Jericho until Christmas. Another inmate, Wendy Edey, wrote of that school and its horrible food on her Hope Lady blog. Click here to read an account of the slop they fed us there. Click here to read more about my book as well as my writing bio.