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Four years after I posted this story in 2002, I received an e-mail from Edward Shaw, who asked that I point you to his story, The Old Indian and His Grandson. That is Mr Shaw's original story, a whole different setting, but another thought-provoking lesson. It is a .pdf file, which means you need Adobe Acrobat to read it.


When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar...and the coffee...

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he filled a very large and empty mayonnaise jar with golf balls. He asked the students if the jar was full. They decided that it was.

Then the professor picked up a box and began to pour pebbles into the jar, shaking the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. Smiling at his trick, they agreed it was.

The professor opened another box and began to pour sand into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up lots of space. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space left by the grains of sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "Think of this jar as representing your life. The golf balls are the important things-your spiritual life, family, your children, your health, your friends, and your passions- things that are so valuable that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your home, and your work. The sand is everything else-the small stuff.

"If you put sand into the jar first," he| continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. 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 important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18."

Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand. There will always be time to clean the house or fix the disposal."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."