A Small Good Thing

A Small Good Thing

The American writer Raymond Carver wrote a short story called, “A Small Good Thing,” in which a young couple loses their little boy after a terrible bike accident, right on his birthday.  Unknowing, the baker of the cake calls several times, asking, “What about Scotty?  Have you forgotten about Scotty?”  Each message is more sarcastic than the last.

When the couple figures out who the caller has been, the mother becomes almost homicidal, and demands to be driven to the bakery in the middle of the night.  Somehow in the confrontation, the three end up sitting heartbroken together and sharing coffee and fresh, hot, cinnamon rolls.  There is confession and forgiveness.

The baker, shocked and sorry, calls it “a small good thing.”

And it is.  I find myself remembering Carver’s story after the bombing in Bangkok, less than three days ago.  Sometimes all anyone can do is a small good thing.  The people gathering at the Phra Phrohm shrine at the Erawan Hotel are doing a small good thing.  They are placing flowers and honoring and remembering the dead and injured.  One family, from Malaysia, lost seven people.  They were all visiting Thailand and traveling together.  Elsewhere, those who commute on the river ferries are observing the place where the second bomb went off on Tuesday, after it bounced harmlessly into the water.

As I write, I’m still jet-lagged from my recent trip to the U.S.A.  I arrived back in Bangkok yesterday morning, the day after the second bombing.  I know some friends and co-workers are scared, as the elevated train goes right by the scene of Monday’s bombing.  It’s a train I ride daily.  My friend and fellow musician, Ms. Meow Khongchaluayphana, lives near the scene and is, like many others, understandably shaken.  Many have stayed home from work or school for a day or two.

What difference does a “small, good thing” make in the face of such death and pain?  I can say this:  Where two or three are gathered together sharing bread, what does it remind you of?

In Carver’s story, the baker, with his impatience and cynicism, caused great pain to those who were already suffering.  He hadn’t known.  But he came to realize, rather quickly, that he had done harm and he could now offer a small good thing.  In a moment of grace, it was received.

Thank you, sisters and brothers around the world, for praying for Thailand in this time of shock.  When you share bread, remember that Christ is with you and with us.  Please pray, too, for those who did the harm, and for those who will make the larger decisions.  Please do small, good things with all your heart.  In God’s grace these things do more than we know.

Raymond Carver died five years after he wrote “A Small, Good Thing.”  These are the words on his gravestone: 


And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.


Anne Gregory serves with The Church of Christ in Thailand. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.