It is important to pay attention to goodness.

Whenever I step into a bakery, I think of this, because a bakery always calls to mind Raymond Carver’s short story “A Small, Good Thing.” In the midst of an unbelievable tragedy, a family also starts receiving harassing anonymous phone calls. Finally, the mother realizes who has been calling them. It’s the local baker. In the chaos of their loss, the family had forgotten to pick up a birthday cake for their son. The husband and wife march into the bakery, the wife intent on giving the baker a piece of her mind. Once he hears the story, the baker is deeply moved. He invites the two to sit down. He asks their forgiveness. He pours them coffee. He asks them to please eat something. He offers them fresh cinnamon rolls he has just pulled from the oven.

“Eating,” he says, “is a small, good thing in a time like this.”

We need the small, good things. We need them no matter what we’re going through, no matter what close friends are going through, and no matter what our country is going through. It is tempting to want to attend to big issues and dismiss the small moments. But lately others–friends, poets, essayists–have been reminding me that it’s important not to become so fixated on mending what’s broken that I forget to enjoy what’s already good in the world. These glimmers of goodness, after all, point us toward what we would like the world to look like when it is healed and whole.

So attend to the small things. Bite into a crisp, juicy apple. Smell its soft, sweet scent. Cut up a fresh apple and start making these pumpkin-apple muffins. Take a moment to sniff the pumpkin pie spices. Call a friend. Brew a pot of tea. Pull these pumpkin apple muffins fresh from the oven. Talk about what’s lovely or devastating or awkward or hilarious about life. Listen. Savor.


Pumpkin Apple Muffins

No need to buy special pumpkin spice from the spice aisle. Make your own with ingredients you probably already have on hand:

  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 40 mins
  • Total Time: 50 mins
  • Yield: 12 1x


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apple
  • Materials: muffin tin, paper muffin cups


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, pumpkin and oil. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture; stirring until just combined. Fold in apples. Spoon batter into a muffin tin lined with paper muffin cups.
  3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick in center comes out clean.

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