Baking cookies for strangers during the pandemic

Written by Abby Ciona

I don’t know how to stop a pandemic, but I do know how to bake.

When COVID-19 started, I found that baking was an effective way to process my fear and anxiety. I stocked up on supplies and baked everything I could think of: cupcakes, cake, bread, donuts, and most of all, cookies in more than a dozen varieties and flavours. My family was happy with the suddenly extensive selection of dessert choices.

Eventually, I filled my family’s freezers until there was no more space. I ran out of containers to put baking in. What now? We couldn’t possibly eat all those cookies in a week, and I was horrified at the idea of going a week without baking anything. What else would I do with myself?

My parents suggested I give away some of my baking. So, I dug through our cupboards for containers and filled them up with an almost startling variety of cookies, squares, and mini cupcakes. I had baked a lot more than I realized.

My dad is the pastor of our church, and he made a list of some people in our extended church community who he said we should deliver cookies too. I knew a few people on the list, but some were almost strangers to me—people I had never even talked to at church. But trusting his advice, I packed a bag full of containers into the car and we made our rounds throughout the city.

The doors we knocked on opened to surprised faces. My dad did most of the talking, but I watched the recipients’ faces light up as I handed them a package of cookies.

As they gratefully accepted the gift of baking, I heard their stories. Some were struggling with working from home or having difficulties with online schooling. Some were facing illness and injury in the family. Others were dealing with sadness or loneliness.

By hearing them speak, I learned that we are more alike than we are different. I didn’t know these people, but they were my church community.

We may have different lifestyles or backgrounds, or possibly disagree on some things, but we are united by our faith in Jesus.

I’ve been surrounded by home baking my entire life, so to me, I was just handing out some extra cookies. But for many of the recipients, it was a rare treat that came right when they needed it most. This gift was a reminder that their church family still cared for them, that they were not forgotten in this challenging time.

In the months to come, I continued baking up a storm, and at the first mention of someone going through a rough season, I would pack up more cookies. Just as much as the baking helped me deal with my worries and fear, sharing my treats with others filled me with joy.

Maybe you are facing challenges in your life that, like a pandemic, seem impossible for you to make a difference in. Perhaps you feel like your attempts to be kind to a difficult person are going ignored, or that your small donation to a church fundraiser is insignificant. Maybe you’ve been trying to invite a new neighbour to church, but feel like you’re not making any progress.

We can easily feel like our love isn’t enough to make a real difference or that it just goes unnoticed. We can wonder what our small acts—like baking—can do in the midst of all of the darkness of the world.

But at those times, we have to remember that Jesus used a boy’s small gift of five loaves and two fish to feed thousands of people (John 6:1-13). This boy didn’t have much to give, but he trusted that Jesus could use it and Jesus multiplied that gift into a miracle. Our God can do far more than we could imagine from the seemingly small and insignificant. We simply need to step out in faith and love others.

I encourage you today to reach out, not with flashy “headliner” kindness, but through simple, everyday things. Maybe it’s a smile to a stranger, a quick text of encouragement to a friend you haven’t seen in a while, or telling someone you’re praying for them. Maybe it’s helping a neighbour with yard work, giving a gift to a struggling family member, or taking time to listen to someone’s troubles.

You might think it’s nothing, but to someone else, these acts of love can mean the world to them. Love is never wasted, and Jesus’s love is moving in more amazing ways than we can imagine.