A Random Act of Grace and a Cherry Pie Recipe

A Random Act of Grace
by Sandi Patty

My dad, Ron Patty, was the youngest of nine kids. When he was a boy, he and his buddies would play football in the street of their small-town neighborhood. Invariably, someone would miss a catch or kick the ball too far, and then their one and only football would land in Old Lady Russell’s yard.

This was not a good thing. Old Lady Russell had a “thing” about her yard, and she obviously didn’t like kids either because if she caught one of the boys sneaking into her yard to get the ball back, she’d come out and rant and rave at them. The boys would move down the street to play for awhile, but eventually they’d end up back in front of her house, and inevitably the ball would land in her yard again.

The boys would draw straws or flip a coin or in some other way decide who the unlucky fellow was who would have to sneak into her yard to get the ball, but Old Lady Russell apparently had nothing better to do than stand by her window and watch for the trespasser to arrive. She’d fly out the door, ranting and raving as the poor kid grabbed the football and hightailed it down the street.

One day she decided she’d teach those ornery boys a lesson. When the ball landed on her lawn, she was ready for it. She trotted out the door, snatched the ball up off the grass, and disappeared with it into her house.

No more football.

None of the boys was brave enough to go knock on Old Lady Russell’s door to ask for their football back. They knew what the answer would be. The youngsters headed home, dejected and miserable.

My grandmother, Grace Patty, noticed that Dad had come home in the middle of the afternoon. She watched as he collapsed into a heap in the chair and miserably slapped his ball cap against his knee.

“What happened, Tyke?” she asked her young son, calling him by his family nickname.

He told his mom what had happened. She listened attentively, nodding and empathizing. “That’s too bad, son,” she said. “I know how you all enjoy playing with that football.”

“Yeah, well that’s over and done with now,” Dad said morosely.

Grandma returned to the kitchen, and Dad slumped around the house. Pretty soon, though, he smelled something. His mom was baking a cherry pie. Well, that cheered him up some. He loved his mom’s cherry pie. But just as his appetite was at its peak and he spotted the pie cooling on the kitchen table, Grandma Grace (oh, how perfect her name was!) threw him for a loop. She sat the pie on a tea towel inside a cardboard box and handed it to Dad.

“Tyke, I thought I’d make a cherry pie for Old Lady Russell. Can you take it over to her house?”

“Mom! Are you crazy? There’s no way I’m taking her a pie,” Dad said. “She’s a mean old lady, and she doesn’t deserve a pie. Did you not hear me say she stole our football? And besides that, she’ll probably kill me if I come into her yard, let alone if I knock on her door.”

Grandma acted like she didn’t even hear him. “I was just thinking she’s probably lonely since she lives all by herself,” she said. “I know it’s hard to make yourself cook when there’s just one person. I’ll bet she would enjoy a cherry pie. So just tell her it’s from you and that you were thinking about her. Don’t ask for the football back. Just say you’re sorry and you didn’t mean to make her mad and would she like a pie.”

So with great fear and trepidation, Tyke carried the cherry pie down the street and through the gate into Old Lady Russell’s yard. He balanced the box on one knee as he nervously knocked on the door. Then, when she came to the door, he stuck out the box and said, “This is a cherry pie from me and my mom. We thought you might like it.”

Well, Old Lady Russell just melted. She invited Dad in. And although he still wasn’t sure she wasn’t luring him in to kill him (and, for heaven’s sakes, we wouldn’t send our kids into a stranger’s house today!), Dad went on in. They had a little visit, and she even offered to cut him a piece of the pie. Then she gave him the football back. And from that day forward, the kids never had a problem with Old Lady Russell. In fact, she would occasionally sit on her front porch and watch with great delight as the neighborhood boys played their football games.

What a lesson Dad learned that day. It’s one he never forgot. One that he taught to his children, including a daughter named Sandi (and one that I’ve taught my children too). It was a lesson that illustrated the power of a random act of kindness—a random act of grace.






  • 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
  •  4 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  •  1/8 teaspoon salt
  •  1 cup white sugar
  •  4 cups pitted cherries
  •  1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  •  1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  1 1/2 tablespoons butter


1.    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.   Place bottom crust in pie pan.  Set top crust aside, covered.

2.    In a large mixing bowl combine tapioca, salt, sugar, cherries and extracts.  Let stand 15 minutes. Turn out into bottom crust and dot with butter. Cover with top crust, flute edges and cut vents in top. Place pie on a foil lined cookie sheet — in case of drips!

3.    Bake for 50 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown.

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