Next Sunday is Mother’s Day. I want to share what might be labeled a modern parable of a mother’s wise teaching. I hope you enjoy it.
You will never look at a cup of coffee the same way again…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 that 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 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 out the carrots and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out of the water and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled some of 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. She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed that the egg was boiled hard and wouldn’t break. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich flavor and sensed the 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—but each 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 through 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 soft and fragile interior, 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 to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean? Thank God for wise mothers!
My mother is dead and I miss her, particularly around Mother’s Day. When she died I was stationed with the Air Force in Holland. Before I left for Holland, she made me promise to come home for her funeral and I did, not realizing at the time how prophetic her demand would be. I pass on to you one of her many wise statements: “just remember, I am always your mother and you are always my child.” I do remember.
Father Michael Doyle, O.S.M.