One Thousand Marbles: A Little Story That Inspired Us

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When I was at Pepperdine University, I read this story called “1000 Marbles.” You might have heard of it before as it has been passed around through email and social media for many years now. I searched for its origin and was not able to find it, but below is the story:

Thousand Marbles

One Thousand Marbles
Source: Origin Unknown

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 backyard patio 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 to listen to a Saturday morning talk show I heard an older sounding gentleman, with 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 round-up 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. “

You could have heard a pin drop on the radio when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work that morning. 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 while 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.”

So, you might be wondering, “Where is she going with this?” Ever since becoming a Mom, my entire world and mindset has changed. My views on life have become a little deeper, the importance of religion has become even more imperative and the concept of time spent has become even more precious to me. If we think about it, we only have so many marbles to use with our kids, until they are off doing their own thing and starting their own lives and using their own marbles the way they want to.

I just re-read this story last week for the first time being a Mom and naturally, I balled my eyes out when I calculated that I actually have less than 1000 marbles until Donovan turns 18. In fact, there are just slightly over 900! I then started to think about Saturdays, where my husband and I just sat down and watched re-runs of “The Office” all day long or hours spent on my phone, mindlessly wasting time. Those moments are not days I will remember! The days I will remember are the days where we went on a “day-cation,” or a picnic, or even just stayed in and played board games all day. I remember my own childhood so vividly, because my parents made it a point to constantly do things with us. Whether it was playing in the back or front yard, going to my little brother’s baseball games, or even going to the mall; every weekend, we really were doing something as a family!

I want Donovan to have that! I think these days, living in an age of advanced technology (streaming media, smart phones and “Selfies”… OH MY!), we can spend hours scrolling through our Instagram or Facebook and it is VERY easy to get sucked into just tossing the marble away with no rich-in-love memories stuck to them.

Well, not anymore. My husband and I decided that we will  consciously start using the marbles; whether we day-cation in Palm Springs or plan a free picnic in the park.

Whether you like this marble analogy or not, it doesn’t matter, because as every Saturday passes, a marble is being taken away from us, whether we like it or not. With that being said, we want to make our time here count, and we plan on spending our marbles preciously moving forward. We will be doing that, by dedicating one Saturday a month doing a “Day-Cation” somewhere close and the rest of the Saturdays spent on purpose and planned. As most first time, parents, we are on a budget and will be very conscious throughout this entire process. Our first Saturday, we decided to do a day trip to Palm Springs with Donovan; it was a day filled with food and art. You can find the article to the trip here:

Our Day Trip to Palm Springs

I hope if anything, this post encouraged and inspired you to think about your time spent and how you are going to spend the rest of your marbles.

“Lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin

Photo: White Rabbit Boutique



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