I’ve been thinking a lot lately about cake, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me very well. I think about food too much as it is, but I’ve been far too preoccupied with cake — particularly pound cake.
I’ve also been thinking about Sir Nicholas Winton, the British guy who you’ve probably seen in old video clips in which he sits in an audience with a group of people who owe their lives to him. He has no idea who they are.
Winton, as a young man in Europe during Hitler’s attempt to eradicate the Jewish population, set about quietly to slip Jewish children out of harm’s way. He worked steadily and fearlessly, and when it was over, he had resettled 669 Jewish Czech youngsters safely in other countries. Then he went about his life, keeping his exploits to himself until his wife found a notebook in the attic chronicling all the children he’d saved from death at the hands of the Nazis. She called attention to his noble act decades later, and he wound up knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
Sir Nicholas could easily have done nothing. But because it was right, and because he could, he did something, changing a terrible course.
Nicholas came to mind when I saw a social media post from my friend Fran. She’s a baker, and has a private business providing baked goods for special occasions. She’d had an idea: She’d offered to bake 40 pound cakes over a couple of weeks. They’d be $30 each, but instead of cash, she wanted gift cards from a particular locally-owned franchise. She’d then redeem $1,200 in gift cards to purchase meals to donate to health care workers at local hospitals. She’d hope to have at least 10 friends take her up on the offer. Instead, she sold all 40 slots within a few hours.
It was a brilliant plan. Forty extraordinary pound cakes were enjoyed by families around the city. Scores of health care workers will get a meal and a thank you. A local-owned restaurant surely suffering from a dip in business gets a much needed shot in the arm. Fran provided ingredients, expertise, hours in the kitchen and a lot of love. Because it was right, and because she could.
I’ve always been puzzled by economists’ assertion that a dollar spent locally has the impact of three dollars in the community. But now I think I get it. A cake sold for a gift card will provide sweet treat for several people, put money into a local business helping support the employment of several more, and feed a number of health care workers while giving them the sense that they’re appreciated. It’s a fishes-and-loaves story.
We picked up our second pound cake recently. I think I’ll have a piece now and raise a cup of coffee to Fran and her brilliant plan.
Bill Perkins is editorial page editor of the Dothan Eagle. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.