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A Small Good Thing

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Sitting down with a good glass of wine and conversing with friends is one of life’s pleasures. So is sitting down with a glass and conversing with strangers. Pete Gavin has this Perspective.

At the end of Raymond Carver’s “A Small Good Thing,” the baker who has been tormenting the woman for not picking up her son’s birthday cake, sits down with her and serves her warm cinnamon rolls and coffee. “Eating is a small good thing in a time like this,” he tells her. The food nourishes her and calms her screaming soul.

After a long career in teaching, I now work in a winery where I sit down with strangers, serve them wine and breadsticks, and get to know them. It’s not complicated, but sometimes by the end of our 90 minutes together, we have connected, occasionally even bonded. I may never see them again, but we have shared something special.

We start by talking about the wine I’m pouring: how the grapes were grown, when they were picked, how the wine was made, the conditions leading to harvest, how long it was aged and the kind of barrels used. We discuss the smell and taste of the wine itself.

But at some point the conversation shifts. I ask my guests questions about where they’re from and their lives back home, and very often they ask me the same kind of things. At this point we form a connection, and the conversation becomes easy, enjoyable. I often discover quite a bit about the people I serve, and they, too, about me.


All of us at the winery are a team; we work together toward a shared goal of creating the best possible experience for our guests. We make sure the wine has been properly cared for, the bread sticks are fresh and well-stocked, the glasses spotless and sparkling, the water cold.

I love being part of this team – the communication we share, often with just a look or a nod. There is something noble and dignified about serving people, striving to give them a memorable experience they will hold and cherish.

It’s a small good thing.

With a Perspective, I’m Pete Gavin.

Pete Gavin is a retired teacher of middle school English. He lives in Santa Rosa.

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