Every year I like to share an inspiring holiday story. This year’s tale of il barattolo (the big jar) comes from Castelvetrano, a farming town in Sicily:
A philosophy professor enters his classroom and, without saying a word, takes a big jar and fills it with golf balls. He asks the students if the jar is full. They say yes.
The professor then takes a box full of marbles and pours it into the jar. The little balls fill in the empty spaces between the golf balls. The professor asks the students if the jar is full, and they again say yes.
The professor takes a box of sand and pours it into the jar. The sand fills all the empty spaces, and the professor again asks if the jar is full. The students respond with a loud yes.
The professor quickly adds two cups of espresso to the contents of the jar. They fill all the empty spaces in the sand. The students laugh.
When the chuckling dies down, the professor says, “I want you to understand that this jar represents life. The golf balls are the important things, like family, children, health, friends, love, the things that fill us with passion. Even if we were to lose everything and only they remained, our lives would be full. The marbles are the other things that are important to us, like our jobs and our homes. The sand is all the rest—the small stuff.
If you would put the sand in the jar first, there would be no room for the marbles or the golf balls. The same thing happens with life. If we use all our time and energy on the small stuff, we will never have space for what is really important.
Pay attention to the things that are crucial for your happiness: play with your children, take time to go to dinner with your partner, practice your favorite sport or hobby. There will always be time to clean house, to cut weeds, to repair whatever needs fixing. Set your priorities. Remind yourself: the rest is only sand."
One of the students raises his hand and asks what the cups of espresso represent. The professor smiles and says, “They remind us that it doesn’t matter how busy life can seem. There is always a place for a cup of coffee with a friend."