A carrot, an egg, a cup of coffee

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Sam Hill
  • 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron

Luke Airmen are dedicated to train the world's greatest F-16 pilots and maintainers while deploying mission-ready warfighters. Every Air Force organization is focused on that mission while standing ready to deploy anywhere.

These two critical missions present their own challenges and adversities. Take for example preparing for the upcoming Unit Compliance Inspection, while trying to balance professional duties and personal commitments. These challenges can take a toll on the ability to deal with hardships that at times seem insurmountable.

Before I go any further, I'd like to share a story. I couldn't find who the author was, but I think it drives home the point that individuals may already have the tools to deal with life's challenges.

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 didn't know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

I think every one of us has felt this way at some point. Sound familiar?

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 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.

In about 20 minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.

Then she ladled 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.

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 take an egg and break it. 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 tasted its rich aroma and then asked, "What does it mean?"

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity - boiling water. 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 insides became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

"Which are you? Are you the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity wilts, becomes soft and loses its 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 challenging deployment, breakup, financial hardship, less than stellar performance report or some other trial, have you become hardened and stiff? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside you are bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or are you like the coffee bean? One who changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor from the bean. If you're the bean, you will improve and change the situation around you."

This brings me to my point. Resiliency.

The Air Force recognizes that Airmen, much like the girl in the story, will experience challenges. If they aren't able to handle them, they could end up making decisions with catastrophic or life altering results. Leadership has made every effort to ensure resiliency programs are available to help Airmen and their spouses find and develop the correct tools to deal with life's challenges.

The Air Force as a service is right to have agencies that care about our physical, emotional and spiritual well being. The 56th Force Support Squadron provides support through the Airman and Family Readiness Center, the family advocacy clinic, and fitness programs. Additionally, the mental health clinic and our chaplain corps stand ready to assist at a moment's notice.

I do not claim to be a resiliency expert. I have, however, seen successes as a result of the resiliency program efforts. Like the NCO who, before medical and chaplain intervention, felt the only way to deal with his divorce was to drink himself into oblivion every night. After finding the proper tools, he is now in a new relationship, has a positive outlook on life and a solid future in the Air Force.

Leaders need to encourage and empower Airmen to take advantage of resiliency programs. The more Airmen who know, understand and use these tools, the better prepared they will be for physical, social, mental and spiritual challenges. By being resilient, Airmen can become more like the coffee bean and change the situation around them.