A Fannie Mae senior vice president wrote the following memo, obtained and confirmed for authenticity by Inside the Beltway, to her communications and marketing division less than three weeks before the U.S. government stepped in with its unprecedented financial bailout of the mortgage giant to save it from collapse. The very last sentence speaks for itself:
"Team: It was nice to see many of you during my walk around yesterday. I greatly appreciate everyone's hard work!!! Like [Fannie Mae CEO] Dan Mudd said in his weekly message, 'it is difficult to face questions about Fannie Mae and unravel the facts of our situation from some of the claims that circulate.'
"But let's stay focused on the facts and keep doing the important work we need to do every day. Which leads me to the below anecdote. I know that I have shared it with many of you a few times over the years. But it still rings very true for me — it gets me thinking about how I try to deal with life's challenges. I thought I'd share it with you again as we all navigate these choppy waters and deal with all of our daily pressures. Here's to being a coffee bean! …
"P.S. I plan to hold Open Door Time this week on Thursday 8/21 from 3 to 5. And please do not forget about our Divisional Social tomorrow from 4 to 6 in the EMR …
"'A Carrot, An Egg, and a Cup of Coffee.' You will never look at a cup of coffee the same way again. 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 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 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 do 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.
"The daughter then asked, 'What does it mean, mother?' 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 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?'
"Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength? Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?
"Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?
"May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy. The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.
"The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can't go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches. When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so at the end, you're the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying."