A Lesson in Life

February 6th, 2008

I recall a sociology professor I had in my undergraduate studies trying to teach us a lesson in life.  He took a large-mouth jar and placed several large rocks in it that he had labeled with things like God, family, health, friends, etc., and asked us if the jar was full.  The story was old and we had all seen it before in one form or another, so we all answered, "No."

He then smiled and took a bucket of gravel and small pebbles and poured them into the jar so that the small rocks settled into the spaces between the big rocks.  These he labeled things like job, home, car, etc.; important things in our busy lives that fill the spaces.  Again he asked us if the jar was full and again the answer was a resounding, "No."

He smiled once more and poured sand into the jar filling up the spaces between the large stones and the gravel.  This he called the small stuff in our lives that seem to take up all the remaining room.  The jar, then, represented a full life.  Again, though, he asked us if it was full.  At this point some in the class began to hesitate and waiver just a bit, most though, now leaning toward calling the jar full.

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he offered, "there is no room for the large rocks or gravel.  The same goes for life.  If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are truly important.  Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.  Play with your children.  Look after your health.  Take your significant other out to dinner.  There will always be time for the small stuff.  Take care of the large stones first, the things that really matter.  Set your priorities.  The rest is just sand."

Without another word he smiled and poured a cup of coffee in the jar and stood there somewhat stoically.  After a few moments of silence someone had enough courage to ask, "What does the coffee represent?"  To which he responded, "My friends, no matter how full or busy one's life is, there is always room to make time for a cup of coffee with friends."

I have never forgotten that lesson my young friends.  Hopefully, neither will you.

Good night, gentlemen.