Friday, December 3, 2010

Are You a Carrot, an Egg or a Coffee Bean?

I was recently sent this story about how different people react to life's challenges, and I thought it was interesting enough to warrant sharing:
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 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 pots 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: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrots went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, they 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 inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had 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 the 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 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 trials are their 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. That's because ... the happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes their way.
I realize analogies like this are simply clever ways to make a point, although whether they have any lasting effect is left entirely up to the reader. Personally I'm not a huge proponent of self-help remedies or catchy anecdotes as I tend to believe people are typically set on their respective paths and can only change when they decide to do so rather than on the advice from another or based upon a witty analogy or bumper sticker catch phrase. Although I have no science, statistics, or empirical evidence to support my theory, I would guess real significant personal change only occurs in approximately one of around a thousand people.

I am reluctant to say people can't change, but rather deep down I'm not sure people really want to change. I think if we are honest with ourselves, most of us would likely admit we would prefer others to adapt to us rather than us changing to fulfill some societal obligation.

I suppose I could draft my own analogy using objects tossed out off of a 5,000 foot cliff above jagged, razor-sharp rocks in the middle of a remote landscape. So what is the difference between a bowling ball, a helium balloon, and a pair of hiking boots?

If you throw all three of these objects over the edge of the cliff, they all respond differently. If you throw the bowling ball, it will succumb to the oppressive force of gravity and fall until it hits the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. Most likely the bowling ball will fracture or perhaps even break into pieces, and it will never again be used for its intended purpose. If you release the balloon, it will fight against the force of gravity and sail into the sky where wind currents will determine its path, and although it will eventually return to earth it will most likely do so in a safer location and at a much more gentle rate of descent. The balloon's path is unpredictable even if we believe we know the end result. However if you throw the hiking boots, they will bounce down the face of the cliff and land at the bottom out of view. They will likely be separated from one another and most likely will never be seen again.

So what is the difference between these three objects? Well when forced to go one direction, the bowling ball simply followed a path which guaranteed a disastrous ending. On the other hand the balloon responded differently and took its own unpredictable path keeping it safe from immediate harm. The hiking boots responded much in the same way as the bowling ball, and although this might not seem like an important differentiation to most people, to the guy who just tossed his hiking boots over the side of a 5,000 foot cliff this is a rather important event, because now this idiot has to continue his hike barefoot.

So which are you... a bowling ball, a balloon, or a pair of hiking boots once worn by a moron?

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