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

March 08, 2024

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been supported by two different chapters of Hospice, first with Carol and then with my mom. I can’t say enough good things about Hospice—I couldn’t have managed without their help. Both Hospice chapters have sent me materials to help with grief and other pertinent topics for the families of people who are sick or dying. I’d like to share one of them with you today—it’s a story I hadn’t heard before, and I still think about it often.

A Carrot, an Egg, and a Cup of Coffee


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 in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

After 20 minutes, she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out, placed the eggs in a bowl out and then ladled the coffee into a cup.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the young woman 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 break an egg. 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 inhaled its rich aroma. The daughter asked what it meant.

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 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?”

Which are you? Are you the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do you wilt and become soft and lose your strength? Are you the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, or maybe a financial hardship become hardened and stiff? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside are you bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or are you like the coffee bean? When the water gets hot, the coffee bean releases its fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, do you get better and change the situation around you and make it better? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

We all know people who have been embittered by trouble and grief—and we all know people who have grown through their suffering and become something beautiful to behold. I do not judge those who have been hardened by adversity or broken by it, but I don’t want to be one of them. I’m trying my best to “be the coffee.” 

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  1. What a beautiful story.

    1. I didn’t mean for my comment to be anonymous.