We all make mistakes. We also do bad, or at least not very helpful, things. We misread a situation, forget something important, say something stupid, follow an unwholesome impulse, act selfishly, cause harm, screw up.
The ability to say we're sorry and extend our hand in peace is the mark of our courage, civility and compassion. When we back that up with a plate of homemade cookies, well, sometimes we can move heaven and earth. A peace offering can come in many ways, but one of the most convincing is through food. When we've taken the time to make something, or pick up a special treat, or remembered a favorite food, we're taking the words "I'm sorry" one step further. Words can be cheap compared to actions and spending a few hours in the kitchen in behalf of a compromised relationship is a sincere way to express our regret.
Because food is so powerful, because it is so necessary to survival, an offering of food can also send deeper messages. It can say "not only am I sorry, but I want to be sure you're fed and well-cared for." Or "here, take this from my precious supplies, because your survival is as important as mine." Think of the famous stories of enemies spending a holiday together, breaking bread on the front lines, their hostilities temporarily forgotten as they share rations of chocolate and whiskey.
The moment when someone reaches across the chilly divide, offering a hand of peace is both powerful and delicate. When that hand also contains a fresh-baked pie or a jar of your famous homemade applesauce, it can be a little easier to meet it. And eating someone else's food is an incredibly intimate act. When you offer food, and when you accept food, you are no longer in your separate corners. You have met somewhere in the middle, a place where so much more is possible.
The batch of brownies for the neighbor you kept up all night with your rowdy party, the special dinner for your mate after a fight, a sackful of your colleague's favorite donuts after you've screwed up the deadline again: what have you done to sweeten an apology?
(Image: Dana Velden)