In the introduction to the book Dancing in the Darkness, by Rev. Dr. Otis Motts, III author, professor and commentator Michael Eric Dyson tells a story told widely whose specific attribution has been lost through oral telling:
One version of the story goes, that a young lady was complaining to her mother about her troubles and wondering aloud how she would make it through a spell of misfortune. Her mother led the young lady to the kitchen and filled three pots with water – and placed carrots in the first, eggs in the second, and coffee beans in the third. After bringing each pot to a boil, she removed the contents and placed them in a bowl explaining to her daughter that while they had been subjected to the same adverse conditions, each element reacted differently. The carrots had been strong, hard and unbending, yet emerged soft and weak. The eggs had been fragile; their liquid interior protected by a thin shell, and yet their insides were hardened by the heat. The consistency of the coffee beans remained the same but instead of being altered by their surroundings they changed the water in which they were boiled to produce coffee with a rich aroma! Which are you? the mother asks her daughter to gauge how she would respond in the face of difficulty.'"
It's a question we can ask ourselves. I am all three – as most of us are. But, I tend to be a carrot sort of person in general. – one with rigid beliefs, firm edges, and strong opinions. That being said, I also can turn to mush (tears!) when I find myself in a situation with too much “heat”. I want to be softened by the world, by others opinions. At the same time I resist the hot pan!
A piece of me is the egg too – Sometimes my boundaries are a bit thin / fragile. And, I can ooze all over the place. I’m more of a scrambled egg than hard boiled.
I want to be a coffee person, of course. Someone who changes the environment and improves it by adding their own essence. It seems to me there are relatively few opportunities to be a coffee bean. But, I have a friend who is outstanding at this. She accomplishes the changes in her environment by talking about her own reaction, her own thinking, her own experiences and “owning” them by saying “this is what I think, though I may be wrong”. She also tends to say “This is what I hear you saying” and she says, “I’d like to hear more” before she ventures her own opinion. She creates a fine cup of coffee by listening, asking questions and then using “I” statements to gently say what she believes. I aspire to that!
May we all continue to learn about ourselves and be willing to “face the heat” and become better baristas eventually.