DAWNINGS: Small acts make all the difference

By Rev. Dawn Weaks

Pastor, Connection Christian Church

I remember the news article from 20 years ago, a testament to the power of a tiny act of compassion.

Our nation was heaving with sorrow and teaming with anger after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Firefighters were still digging out remains of those killed in the collapse of New York City’s Twin Towers.

Volunteers surrounded them with offers of hard hats, dry socks and fresh gloves. And then a cook offered up a dozen apple brown bettys, still warm.

New York Times writer Stephen Jay Gould tells about it in his article from Sept. 26, 2001: “As we left a local restaurant to make a delivery to Ground Zero late one evening, the cook gave us a shopping bag and said: ‘Here’s a dozen apple brown bettys, our best dessert, still warm. Please give them to the rescue workers.’ How nice, I thought, but how meaningless.”

Gould delivered the desserts as promised, atop a pile of more practical supplies. But he was overcome with the workers’ response to the desserts. They went like hotcakes, he said. The last one went to a retired fireman there to help. He sat down and ate it on the spot, exclaiming that it was the most lovely thing he’d seen in days.

As we mark these 20 years since 9/11 and endure the hardships of our own time, raging pandemic and natural disaster and political posturing and wars that did not end in peace, we may be tempted to throw up our hands in despair. We may ask, what difference could we possibly make in a country with so many suffering and with so many resistant to finding common ground?

Perhaps to comfort the suffering and to find common ground, we need to remember Ground Zero. Remember when we were united against extremism and terrorism of any kind. Remember when we mourned deeply for our fellow Americans who died rather than, as I heard recently in regard to COVID-19 deaths, writing them off as “a miniscule percentage of the overall population.”

Maybe we need to remember being in solidarity with our medical personnel and first responders, doing anything they asked us to do to help. Let’s remember checking on our neighbors and bringing supplies to our first responders. And may we remember apple brown bettys, still warm, that were thrown into the abyss of awfulness and caught by those who needed the encouragement of their fellow Americans. Time to get baking again.