(from the April 2019 edition of The Humm, an edited version of ‘The Cookie Story’ that originally appeared on FaceBook and Angie Arendt’s blog)
For all kinds of reasons, the grief bubbled up in me that day in a big way. It was the kind of grief that has you speaking jibberish nonsense, sobbing like a tired toddler who has been told ‘no’ one too many times, and looking like you just finished up a deep meditation: moving at ¾ speed and staring at the world through stony-glazed eyes.
My default response to grief, my own or anyone else’s, is to bake something: tuna casserole, apple pie, Texas sheet cake (or, as I’ve started calling it since moving to Canada: “buttermilk brownies”)…anything, really. On that day, it was cookies—dozens and dozens and dozens of cookies. I really wanted to hand deliver the baked goods to the Des Moines, Iowa police department; however, the 1700+ kilometers between us made a warm cookie delivery highly unlikely…so I did the next best thing: I took the cookies fresh from the oven to the police department a mile down the road along with a “thanks for being you and doing what you do” kind of note.
The bulletproof vested police sergeant seated behind the plexiglass partition in the entryway looked slightly confused when I walked through the front door. With my announcement that I had brought cookies for everyone, her confusion quickly turned to concern: she smiled, but didn’t blink as her right hand slowly moved under the desk in search of a button that would alert her colleagues in the back that something was afoot. My zealous enthusiasm immediately turned into mortification: I knew in a flash that this glazed-eyed, flour-coated, mascara-streaked stranger (me) who had wandered into the police department off the street announcing, “Cookies for everyone!” was exactly the kind of scenario that she had been warned of in her academy days….and with that realization, I felt my cheeks begin to flush. Oh, good: on top of everything else, I was getting splotchy. I do that when I get nervous. I also have a tendency to break into tears when stressed, which is exactly what happened next. Instead of fighting it, though, I simply let the words and the tears tumble out fast and furious:
“My name is Angie and I live just down the street. I moved here from Des Moines, Iowa a few years ago and last night two police officers were gunned down there for no apparent reason: they were just sitting in their patrol cars watching traffic go by when someone came up and shot them in the head, one and then the other. That might be normal in some places but that kind of thing just doesn’t happen in Iowa: we are the kind of people who leave our front doors unlocked and the keys in the car. We wave at people when they drive by and we talk to people on the street whether we know them or not—friendly isn’t what we do, it is who we are. Right now I am really, really, really sad for those officers and their families and for my people back Iowa. And I’m oh-so-grateful for all of you and every single thing you do every day to make this world a better place without knowing what kind of crazy might come your way. I just wanted to do something with all of this sad to bring a little good into the world today…so I baked y’all some cookies.”
At least, that’s what I think I said. What actually came out of my mouth may very well have been jibberish. It was that kind of day.
In any case, when I stopped talking—or rather, when the words stopped spilling out of me—I saw that the officer had both of her hands on top of the desk again and her eyes were filled with tears, too. I held the Tupperware container full of cookies out to her, adding: “There’s a thank you card here, too, that more articulately conveys what I think I just said. I included my name, address, and phone number so you can check me out. This is legit. I promise.”
With that, she laughed, wiped a tear off her cheek, stepped around her protective screen and took the cookies out of my hand, saying: “You know, this may very well be the weirdest and most beautiful thing that has ever happened here. Thank you.”
That night, a bunch of police officers sat at their desks and in their patrol cars filling their bellies with fresh-baked chocolate chip peanut butter oatmeal cookies, telling the highly unlikely yet absolutely true tale of how those cookies made their way into the precinct and holding tight their broken-hearted colleagues in Iowa…and the world became a little lighter and a lot smaller.
Reverend Angie Arendt is a native Iowan and Director, Mentor and Educator at Big Stone House (www.bigstonehouse.ca) in Almonte: a place where people learn and practice the art of sacred living, making the world a little lighter and a lot smaller in everyday, ordinary ways.