Edward Hayes tells the story of “The Magic Folger’s Coffee Can” in his book “The Ethiopian Tattoo Shop.” The short version of the story begins with a young boy, whose whole world was his imagination, piloting his pirate’s ship – a small stick floating willy-nilly down a stream- on endless adventures on a summer’s afternoon. As the stick passes beneath a bridge he meets a troll who seems to be the happiest person in the world. After an exchange, the troll shares his secret. Tossing the boy an empty Folger’s can, he says simply: “Fill this can to the brim and you will be happy always. With a few mumbled words of thanks, the boy set off. Once back in his room, he began stuffing the can with his toys – his ball glove, stamp collection, toy cars… And thus, innocently, began a lifelong passion.
In high school, he stuffed the top grades in his class, football and baseball trophies, and various honors into his Folger’s Coffee Can. Yet, for some reason, the can never became full to the brim. In college, he again added top grades, more intellectual and athletic awards. He became class president, and was voted ‘most likely to succeed.” These too, he pushed into his magic can. But for some reason, although each of these prizes was very sweet, the coffee can never seemed to be really full.
He stuffed good times, good food and drink, the attention and affection of beautiful women and of many friends into his Folger’s Coffee Can. After each rich experience, he would feel very happy and it would seem that his coffee can was full. But by the morning, it was painfully evident that the Folger’s can was not full to the brim.
A wife, two kids, three cars, a successful career, even two mistresses went in. His friends told him to run for public office, so he did, and he won easily. Into his Folger’s Coffee Can he stuffed all the respect, honor, authority and most of all the power of his elected office, but the can was still not full.
Finally, in his old age, with the dented coffee can adorning the carved mahogany desk of his corporate office, he signed the transaction papers to the biggest international corporation merger ever done, making him the richest and most powerful man in the world. With a wry smile on his face, he took the contract and began to stuff it greedily into his battered, old Folger’s Coffee Can. At that moment, he was stricken by a fatal heart attack. As he stumbled forward, the can flew out the high office window.
It took a playful bounce off the sidewalk, almost as if it was happy to be free of the old man’s hands. It rolled along, gathering speed, through the hectic business district, to the outskirts of town, where with one final, exuberant bounce, it rolled to a stop in the middle of a green lawn where a little, blond haired girl was in the midst of a tea party with three of her dolls and her set of tiny, blue rimmed china.
The little girl picked up the can, and looked at it inquisitively, and immediately noticed something its previous owner had never seen – had never taken the time to see because he was so busy trying to fill it. The girl was puzzled because the can had no bottom. The tunnel-like opening of the tin coffee can, unnoticed during the old man’s whole life, delighted the little girl. She held the can skyward, and it became filled with the golden sun. She held it up toward a bird, and it was filled not only with the beauty of the creature but with its lovely song as well. She filled it with her dolls as they sat in all properness at their front lawn tea party. She filled it with flowers and people, and running to a hallway mirror in her home she filled it with herself. With delight she called out, “Oh. Mother, come quickly! A magic Folger’s Coffee Can has just rolled into our yard. Come quickly, Mother; I’m the richest and happiest person in the world. The whole world, Mother, the whole world is in my red, magic Folger’s Coffee Can!”
Few things steal our happiness more than our greed does. It becomes this monster within us, shiftless, restless, pacing, insatiable, until it consumes more and more. It is never satisfied and roars its rage when not appeased my more. For this monster, the more it has, the more it wants.
The only antidote I know – is the practice of gratitude. Be grateful for what is, for what you have, for who you are. This I know: gratitude in my life and for my life leads to trust. Gratitude helps me to trust in the promises of God to be everything for me. Trust that God will not fail in providing for me one day at a time.
Thus it is for the one who grows rich in what matters to God…