From Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

The Mustard Seed

Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.

Susan Taylor

In the darkest of days, we sometimes have to dig deep for the faith that will carry us through. It’s not always easy, as I recently learned.

Like all Americans, September 11, 2001, is a day that I will never forget. My day started out with a promise to clean the house with my dear husband. Following the long illness of a loved one, we had neglected our most monotonous chores. It was time now to engage in this long-overdue task as even the cat was sneezing from all the dust.

This Tuesday we were up early and worked diligently, even skipping our lunch. At 1 P.M. the phone rang. Our son-in-law was working at Roosevelt Field, a large shopping mall here on Long Island, and he was calling to ask if he could stay with us if he couldn’t get across the bridge to his home in Westchester that night.

My husband spoke to him, and I watched as his face turned white. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Anne, quick, turn on the television set. New York City has been attacked!” he yelled.

“What? Who? Where?” I stammered.

“Just turn the set on,” he repeated.

I ran to the living room, put on the TV and watched in horror. I stood in shock, watching the recast of the Twin Towers collapsing, the clouds of smoke billowing skyward, people running for their lives, screaming in terror. America was under attack! Soon, I started crying. My entire body shook. I kept saying, “Oh my God,” until I couldn’t believe it was my own voice I heard. My husband held me, and we sat in silence for the next hour, listening to the tragic reports. It was unreal, a science fiction movie—it just couldn’t have happened to our beautiful New York City. “All the people who worked in the towers, the rescue workers, the police, the firemen, all lost,” I cried.

We quickly began to account for our own family members—who was where, who might be at risk. After a while, we discovered they were all safe. In the next few days we accounted for all our close friends and were extremely grateful. We heard stories from neighbors, friends and family about how the attack had affected them.

We continued to watch the reports, praying for a miracle for the missing. It did not come. I fell into a depression, becoming deeply saddened by the loss of so many, enraged at the destruction of the city where I had been born and raised. When Sunday came, my husband dressed for church and I felt the tears come to my eyes. “I can’t go with you,” I said. He went alone. I stayed and lamented the sheer terror I felt within myself. What kind of world are we living in? I thought. Our poor grandchildren. Is this their inheritance: a world gone mad?

For the next several Sundays, my husband attended services by himself. I tried to pray, I tried to have faith; it just wouldn’t come. I pushed myself each day just to get out of bed. I felt empty, lost and very confused.

I’m not sure why, but on October 7 I told my husband that I wanted to go to church with him. He smiled and said he was pleased, and that I would be happy to know that Father Jim would be saying Mass that day. He knew I enjoyed this priest’s down-to-earth sermons. The theme of the service was the need for us to rekindle our convictions. It spoke of having faith if only the size of a mustard seed. Now, a mustard seed is very small, almost difficult to see on a normal basis. I cried through the entire service, yet when we left the church I felt a new resolve.

That night I told my husband that I needed to show him something. From a box yellowed with age, I removed a small, round glass ball the size of a marble. I put it in his hand, and he asked, “What’s this?”

I replied, “My mother gave that to me thirty-seven years ago when the baby died.”

An infant son had passed away from a lung infection and I had gone into a deep depression. I couldn’t fathom the reason that God would allow something that unthinkable to happen. I lost all my faith and stayed away from church. Nothing was real for me at that time and no one could reach me to help. My heart was broken, my desire to live lost. My dear mother had pressed the small object that my husband now held in his hand into mine one evening. “My darling daughter,” she said, “all you’ve faced recently has been tragic, and there are no answers to the questions of why, but you must go on. I know it’s hard, almost impossible, but if you can have faith, if only the size of that mustard seed, you will begin to heal.”

I stared at this person that I loved with all my heart and wondered how she expected me to believe what she was saying. She put the small glass object in my hand and said, “Just try, Anne.”

That evening I continued to roll the ball over and over in my palm. I concentrated on the tiny brown speck in the middle of it. I felt myself get stronger. I felt the desire to believe that things would return to normal, that life would hold joy for me once again. I can have faith the size of that speck. I can do that, I can, I kept repeating it to myself.

Thirty-seven years later, I held the round sphere that held the mustard seed in my hand. I prayed that night and once again, I felt stronger. We all need to hold on to the thought that we can also have the faith, the spirit, the resolve, if only the size of that small speck, to see us through this crisis. I know it won’t be easy, it never has been. However, in our country’s history, our darkest moments become our finest hours.

Anne Carter

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