Rice, Egg, and Tea

A young man found life to be discouraging and dangerous.  Feeling sorry for himself, he began to express his anger and frustration.  He was tired of fighting and struggling.  He doubted that life would ever be any better. As one problem was solved, a new one arose.

While patiently listening, his mother filled three pots of water and placed them on the stove. When they were boiling, she placed some rice in the first, an egg in the second, and tea leaves in the third. Without saying a word she sat down and let them boil.

Later the mother scooped the rice into a bowl.  Then she removed the egg and placed it in a second bowl.  Finally she poured the tea from the third pot into cups.

The mother then said to her son, “Three different foods faced the same boiling water challenge.  Yet, each reacted differently.  Observe the rice.  The rice which had been firm and strong became weak.   The egg had an opposite reaction in the same boiling water.  The egg was fragile but became firm and strong.  Now taste the water in the cups.”

Some people are like the rice that seems strong. They wilt, become soft and lose their strength with pain and adversity.

Robert was a strong, like a grain of rice. As a student in college he had many good plans and worked hard to be prepared. However, when he was 20 he was diagnosed with a mild form of epilepsy. He didn’t even require medication. Soon his focus was continually on the illness. He let go of his dreams and lost sight of his goals.  Even though his seizures were mild and very infrequent, he constantly worried that he would have another seizure.  Sadly, he died at age 24.  He simply worried himself to death, according to the doctor.

Ernesto enjoyed excellent health, was a good athlete with a good job.  He described his life as a pleasant dream until illness struck his arms and legs. Yet, with the aid of special equipment installed in his car, he could drive to work; with a cane he could walk around.

He resembled a man of strength and courage; however, inside he was disabled with disappointment and frustrated by a lack meaning and vision. A blind man and a small child helped him see his true weakness.

One dark, night his life started to change.  One of his tires had a blowout.  He knew it was impossible for him to change that flat tire. A short distance ahead stood a small house with a light on. He slowly drove to it, pulled into the driveway and honked the horn.

When a young girl opened the door, he rolled down the window and called out that he had a flat and needed someone to change it because he was disabled.

A moment later she returned bundled in raincoat and hat, followed by a man who extended a cheerful greeting.

Ernesto sat, comfortable and dry while the man and the little girl worked to change the tire in the rain. He heard the girl say, “Here’s the jack-handle, Grandpa.” Then he felt the car slowly rise.

After a lengthy period of time, the task was completed.  He was surprised to see that the man was old and frail-looking. The girl, probably only eight years old smiled brightly, delighted to have helped her grandfather.

Ernesto expressed his thanks and held out some money saying, “Let me pay for your trouble”.  The old man made no effort to take the money and the girl stepped closer to the car window and said quietly, “Grandpa can’t see it.”

A blind man and a young child! They gladly struggled with wet, cold fingers, using a stranger’s tools to change his tire because he said he could not do it himself.  (Actually, he was unwilling to even try.)  They changed a tire in the rain and wind, he sat comfortably in the car with his cane.

Ernesto began to see that his disability was much more than difficulty in walking.  It was his crutch – the excuse to keep from trying; he was thoughtlessly filled to overflowing with self-pity, selfishness, and indifference to the needs of others.

Then there are the egg people who start weak, but change with the heat. Some people after an illness or injury, a death in the family, a financial hardship or some other trial, become firm and strong.

Pat has epilepsy and sat in the house watching her father go for his morning run.  One day she expressed her desire to go running with him but was afraid to try. Her father replied that if she had a seizure, he knew how to handle it and encouraged her to run with him.

After a few weeks she became stronger and a desire began to form in her heart to break the world’s long-distance record for women. At that time 80 miles (129 km) was the women’s record.

In Pat’s first year in high school, she completed her goal to run 400 miles (644 km).  One day she fractured a bone in her ankle and her doctor told her she had to quit. She insisted that she had to continue. He told her that he would have to put a cast on her ankle to prevent permanent damage.

She asked the doctor if there was a way she could keep running. The doctor said that he could wrap the ankle in adhesive instead of putting it in a cast. He warned her that it would be very painful, and that it would blister. She told the doctor to wrap it up.

Three years later she planned to run from the west coast to the east coast of the USA, more than 3,000 miles (4,400 km). Pat looked at the handicap of having epilepsy as simply “an inconvenience.” She focused not on what she had lost, but on what she had gained.

After four months of almost continuous running, Pat arrived in Washington, DC and shook the hand of the President of the United States. She told him, “I wanted people to know that people with epilepsy are normal human beings with normal lives.

Glenn had major burns over the lower half of his body. He faintly heard the doctor tell his mother that her son would surely die; then the doctor said, “It was for the best because the fire had destroyed the lower half of his body”.

But Glenn made up his mind that he would survive and, to the amazement of the doctor, he did survive. Later he overheard the doctor and his mother discussing that he would be disabled with no use at all of his lower limbs.

Once more he made up his mind that he would not be disabled.  From the waist down he had no strength or control. After Glenn was released from hospital, his mother daily massaged his legs even though he had neither feeling nor control over them.  Yet he continued to believe that he would walk again.

One day instead of sitting in his wheelchair in the yard, he threw himself across the grass to the fence, dragging his legs behind him.  With great effort, he raised himself up on the fence and began dragging himself along the fence.  He would do this every day, wearing a path around the yard beside the fence.

His strong desire and the daily massages gradually gave him the ability to stand, then walk and then run.  Later in college he made the track team and eventually broke the record for running the fastest mile!

Some people are like the tea leaves that actually change the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, the tea releases the fragrance and flavour. When situations are at their worst for tea-leaf people they release flavour and fragrance to improve the situation for themselves and/or others.

Viktor Frankl, who survived the Nazi death camps, wrote that there were prisoners who walked through buildings comforting others, and giving away their last piece of bread. These prisoners demonstrated that everything could be taken away except the freedom “to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances”.

Rose was badly hurt in an accident and the doctors had to amputate her right hand.  She now saw herself as “disabled”.  But Lilly, the disabled girl in the next hospital bed, who went to a school for the disabled told her: “They teach us at our school that we are never disabled as long as we can help someone else.  If you met my friend Mary, who teaches the typing class, you might think she is disabled because she was born with no arms or legs.  Mary insists she isn’t disabled because she teaches us typing with a wand between her teeth”.

When Rose was released from hospital, her mother obtained one-hand typing charts and took them to the school’s typing teacher.  He responded by telling the mother that even though he never taught one-hand typing, he would work with Rose every lunch period.  “We will learn one-hand typing together.”  …  Soon Rose began teaching her English teacher, who was a one-armed polio victim, how to type with his right hand.

Johnny, a Boy Scout, stood before a large crowd at the Parents Night Banquet well prepared to give his speech.  He began with confidence and was delighted to see his proud parents sitting in the front row.

Suddenly, “stage-fright” struck.  He could not remember his next line.  The Scout leader, having heard Johnny practise many times, whispered the lost words and the boy continued.  Later he stopped again and the leader prompted him.  Once more it happened.

Finally Johnny concluded his speech and sat down very discouraged. He felt that he had failed his parents and his troop.  The audience, politely applauding, seemed embarrassed for the boy.

Immediately, the leader stood up smiling and said that he was happier than they could possibly understand.  He pointed out that “Johnny could have quit and left the stage.  That would have been easy.  However, to complete his task in front of 200 people called for the highest kind of courage and bravery.”  He concluded by telling them that they would never see a finer demonstration of the spirit of that troop.

How do you handle life’s difficulties and challenges?  When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond?  Are you a grain of rice, an egg or a tea leaf? 

May you have enough trials to make you tough, enough sorrow to keep you sensitive and enough hope to discover happiness.

The happiest of people don’t always have the best of everything.  They wisely make use of events that they experience along the way. You will not go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.  The greater the obstacle you face, the more glory in overcoming it.  If you focus on the obstacles, your focus is not on the goal.

In the time Jesus lived, a Roman soldier could force a Palestinian to carry his supplies for one mile.  Jesus told his disciples to be like tea and change the situation. They were to see it as an opportunity to serve and carry the supplies a second mile (Matthew 5:41).

Irish proverb: Life is like a cup of tea, it’s all in how you make it.”

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