Life Compared To A Thousand Marbles

I am sure you, like I, receive a ton of what I call friendly Spam. That is something you receive from a friend and is usually humorous, thought provoking and sometime worthy only of discarding. Today, I received one that I would put in one of the first two categories, so I thought I would pass it on. Here is what the email said.

The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it’s the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it’s the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the garage with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it:

I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the “band” on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind; he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whom-ever he was talking with something about “a thousand marbles.” I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say.

“Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job. I’m sure they pay you well but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. It’s too bad you missed your daughter’s “dance recital” he continued. “Let me tell you something that has helped me keep my own priorities.”

And that’s when he began to explain his theory of a “thousand marbles.”

“You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.

“Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now, stick with me, Tom, I’m getting to the important part.

It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail”, he went on, “and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays.” “I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear.”

“Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away. I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.”

“Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure that if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time.”

“It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. This is a 75 Year old Man, K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!”

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off.

I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter.

Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. “C’mon honey, I’m taking you and the kids to breakfast.” “What brought this on?” she asked with a smile. “Oh, nothing special, it’s just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. And hey, can we stop at a toy store while we’re out? I need to buy some marbles.

A friend sent this to me, so I to you, my friend.

And so, as one smart bear once said…”If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” – Winnie the Pooh.

This really was a thought provoker. Before I moved to Panama many of my days were focused on things that now I consider much less important. Now I cherish each day and each friend that fills my day with pleasure. If you took the time to read this piece, maybe it would be a good time to take stock of your life and you even might consider going to the store and buying some marbles to help you put things into focus.

21 thoughts on “Life Compared To A Thousand Marbles

  1. Don Ray,
    As you know, over the past three months or so, my husband and I have been working incredibly hard to save the homes at Playa Las Lajas – not surprisingly, one of them is ours.

    What has been the hardest to explain to people about our battle is that for us, its not about the financial investment or the possible loss. This house represents 18 months of our lives – half of which we have spent apart. While he was supervising the construction at the beach, I was here in David sourcing materials, feeding the machine, running interference, etc.

    We don’t mourn the house – we mourn the loss of the time that could’ve been spent together – all those marbles!
    Thank you for putting this into a perspective we can effectively share.
    Linda & Stan

  2. It is always good to have something shake us up once in a while and refocus our lives on what is really important. I am happy that you enjoyed it.

  3. I understand the sentiment completely. I was recently diagnosed with kidney cancer and had surgery to have my kidney removed. The surgeons and all got both myself and my wife extremely anxious about my chance of surviving the surgey, one of those “the operation was a success but the patient died” sort of things.

    I suddenly though to myself–these might be the last four weeks of my life. The last four with my three-year old, my wife, my family. I could be leaving my wife with a newborn (yes, we were expecting a new baby three days after my surgery).

    I stop doing selfish things. I played with my daughter more, just sat and watched my wife and helped her in little ways. Stop taking for granted all sorts of things.

    Fortunately, the operation was a success. I still focus on my family, less on work, less on things that only benefit me. I want my remaining days to be as full as possible and to share those days with the ones I love and care about.

    Thanks for the story Don.

  4. Thanks for sharing John. I am happy that you are doing well. Life is a precious thing and too often we take it forgranted.

    As you are doing, i try to enjoy each day and let those that are important to me knoe that I know their importance.

  5. I like the concept of the marbles, but I think I will put a marble into the container each Saturday so I can see how many Saturdays I have already enjoyed since my realization. Since I plan on living a long life, I would not like to think that once I run out of marbles, life ends. By adding marbles, I can see how full my glass is and is getting fuller.

  6. Don,
    This is a marvelous wise story…one which we should all bear in mind. I turned 50 last month and, having lost a father, father-in-law, and a friend/colleague within the last year and a half, I find myself staring at my mortality head-on.

    This has contributed to a mid-life crisis of sorts, and my wife and I are looking for a change outside of the US. One of the candidates for our escape is Panama. Most web sites on Panama, as you probably already know, are of the “Chamber of Commerce” variety, where everybody’s happy living in Paradise. Your blog (and a couple others), although favorable too, give some of the needed dose of reality as well. For this I thank you!

    In any event, the fear of moving to a foreign country, with the likely culture shock, does not deter me from the endeavor, for I know that life is very short and fear is the enemy of a full life. Your marble story helps greatly in this regard!

    I will be monitoring your blog closely in the future.

    May you be happy!

  7. Bob – Whether you put in marbles or take them out is not important. I think the only important thing to realize is that life is a precious resource that should not be wasted on unimportant things. Life is to be enjoyed with those we love.

    Steve – If you come to Panama with the right expectations, then you should not be disappointed. I have found it to be a very good move for me. Much less stress and more time to do the things I enjoy.

    Thanks to both of you for dropping in and taking the time to leave comments.

  8. Hi Don:

    I enjoyed reading you post. After reading it, I decided to invite my wife and the son of her nephew (he is four years old) to a nearby mall, just to window shop. I don’t really need anything, but I just wanted to be with them sharing time together.

    Thank you Don, for this wonderful piece of “philosophy of life”.



  9. Don,
    Reading that the first time is what settled Linda and I on slowing down on our busy work schedules and plan on the big move to Panama. We were down and purchased the house a little over a week ago, and hope to start using up the 23 marbles I would have left this time next year in Portrerillos. The story was a real eye-opener…

    P.S. Brought you down some canned pumpkin, but was just too busy to deliver it. It is still there, just have to find a way to get it from the house to you..

  10. Hi Doug. Now when people ask why you are moving to Panama, I guess you are going to say, “Because I am running out of marbles”. That is a great reason in my book.

    Good to hear about the pumpkin. I will put it to good use. Thanks for thinking of me.

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