A Thousand Marbles
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 basement shack 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 whoever 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. Too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital.”
He continued, “Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on 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 roundup 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of 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 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. 75 year Old Man, this is 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. Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we’re out? I need to buy some marbles.”
When I came across the story of A Thousand Marbles the first thing that came to mind was the song by Tim McGraw, Live Like You Were Dying. I am sure most of you have heard it at one time or another but the song describes a man who is diagnosed with a terminal illness and is faced with the fact that his time to live suddenly is running out. Instead of succumbing to his illness he goes and does the things he always wanted to do, sky diving, rocky mountain climbing, etc and he discovers spending time with the one’s he loves to be suddenly much easier and enjoyable then it seemed before. The song asks the age old question, the question that inspires many people to compile a “bucket list” when they reach their golden years, which is; Where would you go? What would you do? Who would you spend time with if you knew your time was precious because your life was soon going to end.
The story of A Thousand Marbles describes the same idea as the song Live Like You Were Dying, however it hits a lot closer to home. The older man in the story didn’t realize how precious his time was because he was faced with a terminal illness or life altering experience, he just did the math. When I read it I felt a little stunned at first because it really puts it out there plain and simple, we, like the man in the story, all have our own jar of marbles. We have had our jars since the day were were born and every weekend since that day our jars have lost one marble at a time. Although some may think the idea of counting down the Saturdays you have left to enjoy, one marble at a time, to be a little morbid, I disagree. The fact is our time IS precious on this earth and yet sometimes we can get so caught up in our day to day lives that we forget what a gift each and every day truly is. Although it would be optimal to be able to keep this perspective as we go through our lives, without needing to be reminded of how important our time is, sometimes we just get too caught up in the whirlwind of life. Instead of waiting for something like an illness or tragedy to open our eyes to how precious our lives are, having a reminder, a jar of marbles, whether on your shelf in your room or just imagined in your mind, remember to look to your jar of marbles from time to time to be sure to remember to cherish each and every day.
— Copyright © 1999 Jeffrey Davis, Used with Permission
— Submitted by Geri Phillips —Texas
— Author’s name provided by Max Young