By Archbishop Henry D’Souza
One day a couple was discussing with me about their children. They had a boy and a girl. Both were brilliant. They did extremely well in their school education. As parents the couple encouraged their children to go higher and higher. They made great sacrifices in the hope that the children would reach the top of their professions. After some years the children did in fact reach high levels of performance. Happiness however eluded them. It was a constant grind and pressure and sacrifice to achieve goals in their work. There was hardly any time for rest or for the family. The couple said to me, “We sometimes envy the less brilliant children. They do not have the anxiety to make more money or foster such high ambitions but they certainly have happiness. They also bring much joy to their parents.”
This story is illustrated by a demonstration done by a professor before his students. The professor came to the class and put on a table a pewter jug. Then he drew from his bag some golf balls and filled the jug with them. He asked the students whether the jug was full. They all said, “Yes.”
The professor then took some small pebbles from his bag and began to pour them into the jug. The pebbles found the spaces and went down and filled all the vacant areas until they came to the top. The professor asked his students whether the jug was full and the class enthusiastically said, “Yes.”
The professor then took another container from his bag. It was sand. He began to pour the sand into the jug and the sand found the little crevices and spaces between the golf balls and the pebbles and slowly the jug was filled with the sand from the bottom to the top. The students were asked whether the jug was now full. They all agreed.
Finally the professor pulled out a cup of coffee and poured it into the jug. The liquid found its way into the vessel and the lesson was over.
The professor then told his class. The pewter jug is your life. The golf balls are the essential and important things of life - God, family, health and friendship. The pebbles are the smaller values in our lives as our job, our car and our house. The sand represents the little things - those things that often absorb our time, most of them of no consequence, such as TV, chatting, etc. He then continued. It is necessary to put first things first into life. They are represented by the golf balls. Then the secondary things are symbolised by the pebbles. The small things that take up our time have also a place but they should not displace the essential things. When we put into our lives the sand first, there is very little place for pebbles, leave alone for the golf balls. The students got the message and asked, “What about the coffee?” The professor replied, “That too is helpful. It represents the time we have after doing the essentials to chat with a friend over a cup of coffee.”
Priorities in our life can give us great joy and peace. The story goes that a very successful gentleman had a thriving business. Money came fast and plenty. But he was busy all the day in the shop with the accounts, with papers, with letters, with invoices and so many other details. There never seemed any time to be available to his wife and children. In fact he was seeing less and less of them and great unhappiness was emerging in the home, in spite of the money he earned. One day he sat with his wife and children and discussed the whole business and its impact on his family. They agreed that he had to make time for the family if he wanted real happiness. The decision was taken and the business was sold. A farm in the country was bought and a new more leisurely life was begun. There were many chores to be done, such as to take care of the farm, to cultivate the land, to harvest the produce, to look after the animals. However his wife and children became more relaxed and comfortable. The family had time for each other.
Right perspectives in our life are important. There must be place for God and a place for work. There must be also a place for oneself and one’s near and dear ones. A poet said, “What is this life, it so full of care, there is no time to stand and stare.