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For All The Marbles

marbles

By Vicki Huffman

The expression that nature abhors a vacuum is especially true as we age: clutter, both material and mental, expands to fill our time and our lives. Those of us who are often in e-mail can attest to that as our boxes fill up frequently. A lot of stuff floating around the internet is the same old, same old, but occasionally something special comes along. Such is the story that I share with you. (No author’s name was attached—if you know you wrote it, please let us know and we’ll credit him.) What I especially enjoy about it is its universal application. It’s the advice of an older man to a younger, but its wisdom is applicable to women just as much as to men.

As I read it I thought of what Moses wrote long ago: “The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:10,12 NIV). This story helped remind me to number my days. Maybe it will do the same for you:

“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 whomever he was talking with something about “a thousand marbles.” I was intrigued and stopped to listen.

“Well, Tom,” the older man said, “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 60 or 70 hours a week to make ends meet.  It’s too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital. Let me tell you something that has helped me keep my own priorities.”

That’s when he began to explain his theory of “a thousand marbles.” “You see,” he said. “I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic.  The average person lives about 75 years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about 75 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 55 years old to think about all this in any detail”, he went on, “and by that time I had lived through over 2800 Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be 75, I only had about 1000 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.”

“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 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. And hey, can we stop at a toy store while we’re out? I need to buy some marbles.”

©2010 Vicki Huffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.