photo-2A carrot, and egg, and some coffee all hop into some water… So the story goes. It’s not my story but was told to me years ago, and I latched on to it enough to have a sign above my desk to remind me of it.

Forgive me if I don’t get it exactly right in the retelling. And don’t stop me if you’ve heard this; this one bears repeating. The original author, as far as I can tell, is unknown, but I’ll tell it to you the way it was told to me:

The story begins with, say, a young woman telling her troubles to her Grandmother. The young woman is struggling in life, and she’s growing tired of the struggle, tired of the fight. Problems just keep coming, and she’s about ready to give up.

Her Grandmother, as they do, quietly fires up the stove and puts on three pots of water to boil. She then takes a carrot and drops it into the first pan of boiling water. She puts an egg into the second. And she ladles some coffee into the third.

After a few minutes, she takes out the carrot and lets her granddaughter examine it and taste it. Then she takes out the egg and lets the granddaughter peel it and taste it. And then she ladles out some coffee for the granddaughter to taste.

Her Grandmother then says, “Each of these things faced the same adversity: the boiling water. The carrot went in tough and strong, but the water made it soft and mushy. The egg was fragile, with soft insides when it went in. When it came out it looked the same, but it isn’t. It’s now hardened on the inside. And then there’s the coffee,” she says. “The coffee went into the water, and it changed the water.”

Friends, adversity will come. Be the coffee. Change the water.

Special thanks to Father Nick of Calvary Episcopal Church in Rochester for putting this story into one of his famous quick-and-to-the-point sermons. It’s been more than five years since I heard it and I think about it almost every single day.

I’ll be signing copies of Upside Down Kingdom at the Cannon River Winery this afternoon as part of their Third Annual Local Authors Book Day. Stop by if you can!