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Every once in a while, a gem comes along via e-mail that is worth keeping and repeating. Here’s such a jewel titled: “A mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee.”

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

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He asked the students again if the jar was full and they agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled up the visible remaining space. Once more he asked 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 their entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space within the sand. The students laughed. “Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, your family, children, health, friends and favorite passions – things 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, home and car. The sand is everything else – the small stuff. If you put the 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 never will have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with you children and grandchildren. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There always will be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

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 you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

Legend attributes the Maxwell House Coffee slogan, “Good to the last drop,” to President Theodore Roosevelt. Once, while a guest, he was asked if he wanted another cup of coffee. “Teddy” is said to have replied, “Will I have another? Delighted! It’s good to the last drop!”

Finally, not only is coffee “good to the last drop,” so is all of life! In a hurry to rush onto life’s next experience, we frequently leave lots of life “untasted,” concentrating only on the sand – the small stuff. So, when things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar “filled” with golf balls. And please share this with someone your care about. We just did – you, our loyal readers!

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer