Most of the patients at the acute inpatient psychiatric hospital where I worked had endured unimaginable hardships that left them feeling hopeless. If there was one thing that I really wanted them to have before they left our facility, it was renewed hope.
At the end of our group therapy each day, I would share an uplifting story with them. Are You a Carrot, an Egg, or a Coffee Bean? was one of my favorites. (Especially the end) It has been around awhile so you may have heard it, but it is one of those stories you may want to read again and again.
Are You a Carrot, an Egg, or a Coffee Bean?
A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life, and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as if one problem was solved, a new one arose. Her mother took her to the kitchen… She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pot came to a boil.
In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word. In about twenty minutes, she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.”
“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied. Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity…the boiling water. Each had reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting in the boiling water, its insides became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they changed the water.
“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”
Think of this: Which am I? Am I a carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength? Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?
Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.
When the hour is the darkest and the trials are the greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity?
Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?
May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human, and enough hope to make you happy.
The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they make the most of everything that comes along their way. The biggest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can’t go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.
Live your life with love, hope, happiness, and faith. Elevate yourself to another level. Embrace it all.