Dear Winn – 28 February 2017

Dear Winn:
Well, tomorrow’s Wednesday, the first day of March. And also Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I think I’ve told you before that as a young Baptist boy the only lint I knew was what I pulled out of the dryer vent a couple of times a week. I’m quite sure I never even heard the word until many years later studying for my Master of Divinity degree (yes, the most arrogant sounding degree on the planet). So I always struggle a bit with the season simply because it is not in my native tongue. But I have warmed to the days of bright sadness. So I sorta limp through Lent.
Just the other day I came across this short story by Raymond Carver titled “A Small, Good Thing.” Have you read it? I highly recommend it. I won’t give it all away because I want you to experience it, but the story revolves around Ann and Howard Weiss, a husband and wife who lose their eight-year-old son, and an unnamed baker they had hired to bake his eighth-birthday cake. Near the conclusion the baker tells the grieving couple, “You have to eat and keep going. Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this.” I read that line, Winn, and it undid me.
As I said, bending down on my crackly Baptist knees to receive the sign of the cross on my forehead is always a little awkward, but it seems to me to be a small, good thing in a time like this when there’s so much hatred and fear in our hearts. Sure, the hatred and the fear have always been there, but they feel so much closer to the surface these days, like its all just a click away and we’re all just itching to click. To be reminded, via ashes, of my rather brief mortal performance on the earth’s grand stage is a strange form of nourishment for me, much like eating. And we have to eat and keep going in a time like this, don’t we? Yes…and that’s a small, good thing.
Sometimes I wonder, when the minister rubs the ashes on my forehead, if he or she sees the Easter burning in my eyes. God I pray they do, Winn. I really do.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,026 other subscribers


  1. Henry Mitchell on March 1, 2017 at 4:43 am

    Now and then, I read your blog, John, just so you can break my hard, proud heart one more time.

    • thebeautifuldue on March 1, 2017 at 1:40 pm

      Henry, I appreciate you stopping by from time to time. I really do.

  2. Kris Camealy on March 1, 2017 at 11:11 am

    Beautiful, John. I’m grateful to bear witness to these letters. Thank you for letting us in.

    • thebeautifuldue on March 1, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      Thank you, Kris. “To bear witness”…I like that.

  3. jane r williams on March 1, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    “I pray they see the Easter in my eyes…” Perfect words of a perfect prayer.

  4. Jeannie Prinsen on March 1, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    I’m also a believer in small, good things. In LOTR, Tolkien said, “Such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.” (I quote that every chance I get.) Thank you for reminding us of their importance again, at a time when they’re much needed.

    • thebeautifuldue on March 1, 2017 at 9:42 pm

      I know that quote well, Jeannie – love it! Many thanks. ~J

Leave a Comment