I was sitting in the dining hall the other day, minding my own business over lunch, when a friend of mine sat down to speak to me. He looked down at the glass of water I had been drinking, and asked a well-worn question.

Is that glass half empty or half full?”

Having heard this one before, or so I thought, I made a calculated reply.

“Well, I have to admit I’m a pessimist by nature, and that I would normally say that the glass was half empty. But I’m trying to work on that, and to be more optimistic in the way I act and think, so I’ll have to say that the glass is half full.”

My friend smiled, but didn’t say anything.

“Well,” I responded, “is that the answer you were looking for? Or did you want me to say the glass was half empty because that was really the answer according to my true nature?”

“Neither,” my friend replied. “The glass isn’t half full or half empty.”

I stared at him blankly.

The glass is full.” He paused. “Do you see?”

This is what I saw.


I saw that the glass was indeed full, half with water, half with air. This is not as trite as it sounds.

If I were walking in the desert, dying of thirst, and I came upon this glass, I would perceive it to be half full of water that I could drink. But if I were swimming beneath the ocean, about to drown, and I came upon this glass, I would perceive it to be half full of breathable air that would sustain my life, if only for a few moments more.

Which half of the glass I value most depends not on the glass nor its contents, but on me and my circumstances.

You see, young grasshopper, the glass is like life. Life happens to us, each and every day. And when life deals us our daily hand, we often choose to value that hand in terms of our present circumstances alone, looking only at what we believe to be valuable right now. It is often difficult to think about the big picture in such situations, particularly when we are dying of thirst in the desert and wishing for a glass full of water.

But the raw hand of today may well be the winner of tomorrow, if we are willing to make the effort to see –- and make use of –- the positive side of all our circumstances.

Thanks for letting me share.

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