It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. –Epictetus
Once upon a time a man found out that he had cancer. After receiving his diagnosis from his doctor, the man left the office feeling dazed and confused. A surge of emotions gripped him as he walked towards his home. He wondered what would happen to him, his family and his friends if he were to die as a result of the disease. He kept replaying his doctor’s words in his mind and his imagination would take him away to some very frightening outcomes. He was completely engrossed in his thoughts as he shuffled home, oblivious to the world around him.
When he returned home he told his family about the news from the doctor and they reacted as you might expect, with tears and worried concern. Later that night the man was alone in the kitchen when his father, a cancer survivor himself, came in to speak with his son.
After hugging his son, the father told the son to please sit down while he show him a valuable lesson his own father had shown him many year ago after he had lost his job. The son reluctantly complied with his father’s request and watched as the old man took out 3-pots, filling them with water and then placing them on the stove. The father then took out an egg, a carrot and some coffee beans that he also grinded. The son, growing impatient said, “Dad I am not hungry. Don’t you understand what has happened to me?” The father slowly turned to his son and said, “I know you are not hungry for food, my son. What I am about to show you will nourish your soul.” The father then placed the egg, the carrot, and the coffee in the water filled pots and then proceeded to boil them all.
The son sat at the table, growing impatient with his elderly father’s demonstration while at the same time his thoughts became more anxious about the news he had received from his doctor.
After placing the egg and carrot on plates and then pouring the coffee into a small mug, the father returned to his son at the table presenting to him what he had just cooked. “Well what do you see?” the father asked. “A carrot and egg and some coffee”, said the son.
“Let’s look closer,” the father said and asked his son to feel the carrot, to peel the egg -shell and sip the coffee. As the son did these things the father said, “All of these things faced the same adversity, the boiling water. The carrot once hard and strong has become soft. The delicate fragile egg has hardened. Yet the coffee bean has changed the water into something magical and delicious.” The question for you my son is which of these are you going to be as we confront your diagnosis.”
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom – Victor Frankl
Life happens. Things don’t go our way and tragic events are also often part of the experience of being alive. Life can make a hard person soft – wearing them down and they in turn may wither. On the other hand life can toughen a person changing the once fragile heart into something hard. Still we have another way and that is to recognize the power to choose our response to circumstances. We can be a transformative agent that can change the environment itself and in that process make the world a better place.
Which will you choose?