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At the prodding of my friends, I am writing this story. My name is
Mildred Hondorf. I am a former elementary school music teacher from
DeMoines, Iowa.

I've always supplemented my income by teaching piano lessons-something I've
done for over 30 years. Over the years I found that children have many
levels of musical ability. I've never had the pleasure of having a protege
though I have taught some talented students.

However I've also had my share of what I call "musically challenged"
pupils. One such student was Robby. Robby was 11 years old when his mother
(a single mom) dropped him off for his first piano lesson. I prefer that
students (especially boys)! begin at an earlier age, which I explained to

But Robby said that it had always been his mother's dream to hear him play
the piano. So I took him as a student. Well, Robby began with his piano
lessons and from the beginning I thought it was a hopeless endeavor. As
much as Robby tried, he lacked the sense of tone and basic rhythm needed to

But he dutifully reviewed his scales and some elementary pieces that
require all my students to learn. Over the months he tried and tried
while I listened and cringed and tried to encourage him. At the end of
each weekly lesson he'd always say, "My mom's going to hear me play

But it seemed hopeless. He just did not have any inborn ability. I only
knew his mother from a distance as she dropped Robby off or waited in her
aged car to pick him up. She always waved and smiled but never stopped in.
Then one day Robby stopped coming to our lessons. I thought about calling
him but assumed, because of his lack of ability, that he had decided to
pursue something else. I also was glad that he stopped coming. He was a bad
advertisement for my teaching!

Several weeks later I mailed to the student's homes a flyer on the
upcoming recital. To my surprise Robby (who received a flyer) asked me if
he could be in the recital. I told him that the recital was for current
pupils and because he had dropped out he really did not qualify. He said
that his mom had been sick and unable to take him to piano lessons but he
was still practicing.

"Miss Hondorf...I've just got to play!" he insisted. I don't know what
led me to allow him to play in the recital. Maybe it was his persistence or
maybe it was something inside of me saying that it would be all right.

The night for the recital came. The high school gymnasium was packed with
parents, friends and relatives. I put Robby up last in the program before I
was to come up and thank all the students and play a finishing piece. I
thought that any damage he would do would come at the end of the program
and I could always salvage his poor performance through my "curtain

Well, the recital went off without a hitch. The students had been
practicing and it showed. Then Robby came up on stage. His clothes were
wrinkled and his hair looked like he had run an eggbeater through it. "Why
didn't he dress up like the other students?" I thought. "Why didn't his
mother at least make him comb his hair for this special night?"

Robby pulled out the piano bench and he began. I was surprised when he
announced that he had chosen Mozart's Concerto #21 in C Major. I was not
prepared for what I heard next. His fingers were light on the keys, they
even danced nimbly on the ivories. He went from pianissimo to
fortissimo...from allegro to virtuoso. His suspended chords that Mozart
demands were magnificent! Never had I heard Mozart played so well by people
his age.

After six and a half minutes he ended in a grand crescendo and everyone was
on their feet in wild applause. Overcome and in tears I ran up on stage and
put my arms around Robby in joy. "I've never heard you play like that
Robby! How'd you do it?"

Through the microphone Robby explained: "Well Miss Hondorf... remember I
told you my mom was sick? Well, actually she had cancer and passed away
this morning. And well....she was born deaf so tonight was the first time
she ever heard me play. I wanted to make it special."

There wasn't a dry eye in the house that evening. As the people from
Social Services led Robby from the stage to be placed into foster care, I
noticed that even their eyes were red and puffy and I thought to myself how
much richer my life had been for taking Robby as my pupil. No, I've never
had a prodigy but that night I became a protege...of Robby's. He was the
teacher and I was the pupil. For it is he that taught me the meaning of
perseverance and love and believing in yourself and maybe even taking a
chance in someone
and you don't know why.

A daughter complained to her father about 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 struggling. It seemed that as soon as one problem
was solved, a new one arose.

Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with
water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil.

In one he placed carrots, in the second he placed eggs, and the last he
placed ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil, without saying a

The daughter sucked her teeth and impatiently waited, wondering what he was
doing. In about twenty minutes he turned off the burners. He fished the
carrots out and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed
them a bowl. Then he ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her he asked. "What do you see?"
"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.
He brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted
that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After
pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked
her to sip the coffee. She smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

She said, "What's the point?"
He explained that each of the items had faced the same adversity - boiling
water - but each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong and hard . But 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

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the
boiling water, they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" he asked his daughter. "When adversity knocks on your
door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"

How about you?

Are you the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity wilts and
becomes soft and loses strength?

Are you the egg, which starts off with a malleable heart Were you once a
fluid spirit who, after a death, break-up, divorce, or layoff, became
hardenedYour shell looks the same, but inside you is a stiff spirit and

Or are you the coffee bean The bean changes the hot water, the thing
that is bringing the pain.
When the water gets hotter, it just tastes better. When things are at
their worst, you get better and make things better around you .

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Copyright 2006 Joke A Whenever

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