A Small, Good Thing


Carver, Raymond


Short Story


Raymond Carver was an American short story writer and poet in the late 20th century whose famous works include “Cathedral” and “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” and was famous for his minimalist style of writing. “A Small, Good Thing” is about two parents struggling with their son’s brain injury after a car accident and the incessant phone calls from the baker who made the boy’s birthday cake. This piece inspires discussion on community, grief, need, support, loss, service, and connection.

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A Small, Good Thing 1983




Connection and RelationshipCrisis and ConflictLove and CompassionPoverty and Need

Big Questions

How does fear bring us together and how does it divide us?What makes it possible for us to connect to others? What gets in the way?Why is connection important? What does it enable? What does it impede?How should we respond to crisis?How does a person learn compassion?Should we love the people we serve?What does empathy look like?How do we know what someone needs?How do we recognize need?How should we respond to people and communities in need?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. What do you think of the baker?
  2. How would you describe each parent’s reactions to their son’s injury?
  3. How do the parents seek support from one another and those around them? What is the most supportive source for them?
  4. What is “a small, good thing”?
  5. How do we recognize others’ need and how do we fulfill it?
  6. How do we know the impact and limitations of our support?
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