I’m still lying in my bed sipping my coffee and thinking about how to tell the story I am about to tell.
It’s about adversity. It’s about how we face that adversity and it’s about the first time I found myself waiting for a boy who never showed up.
I was 5 years old; his name was Josh and he was my boyfriend.
I can’t seem to remember if we were in the same classroom at preschool, but each day at recess we planned our meeting at the merry-go-round.
One day, he didn’t come to school.
That day stretched into weeks. Still, I’d race to an empty merry-go-round and wonder, where had he gone off to?
No adult informed me of the terrible tragedy that had occurred but something in me suspected he wasn’t coming back.
Around that same time, during the evening hours, my preschool became the home of a new chapter of women: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). I remember going a few times with my mom, but at the age of 5, I didn’t quite understand why they spent an hour crying together in what, by day, was my classroom. All I knew is that MADD sounded a lot like mad and so their tears must have been because they were angry.
I never forgot Josh.
In fact, I find myself thinking of him every time I back out of my driveway, something his father failed to do.
This week, I was again reminded of Josh’s story when Claudio asked me, “Which are you, a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”
Perhaps you would have known how to respond but until then, I’d never heard of what is apparently a quite famous anonymous parable.
I listened as he told me a story that has been told by many.
I’ll sum it up for you.
A young adult comes to their parent complaining about their life, about how difficult it is, how tired they are, and how they don’t have the will to go on.
The parent takes their child into the kitchen, sets three pots of water to boil and then places a carrot in one, an egg in another and a handful of ground coffee beans in the third.
After some time the parent removes the carrot, the egg and the coffee grounds from each pot and asks, “What do you see?”
The young adult responds with the obvious, “A carrot, an egg and some coffee grounds.”
The parent asks their child to look closer and takes to explaining:
“Each of these items faced the same adversity, 212 degrees of boiling water. However, each reacted differently. The carrots went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. But after going through such intensity, they softened and became weak. The eggs were fragile — thin outer shells protected the liquid centers — but they became hardened. The coffee beans while broken open, rather than softening or hardening, they transformed their environment into something strong and delicious.”
Josh’s mother, she was a coffee bean.
She took her grief and wove it into a web of support for the community. Josh’s father, on the other hand, never forgave himself. Like the egg, he grew hard in his shell.
Life is full of suffering. It is hard and sad and at times, leaves us angry. But it’s also beautiful and glorious and often magical. It’s not either or, it’s both. Kind of like coffee. Both bitter and sweet. Both acidic and balanced. Both bold and watery.
Perhaps there is a time for all these reactions, a time to be soft, a time to be hard and a time to convert our circumstances in something that wakes us up.
May we always be wise enough to know which path to choose.
Heart in my hand in yours,