Mayonnaise Jar + 2 Cups of Coffee

There are friends I meet with as often as possible. Some are scheduled–on the calendar like clockwork. Some are my “drop a hat” and meet peeps. Others are these and more.

These are my life givers. Be it for coffee, tea, or a Vodka Collins. We meet.

And the truth is–it’s not about the coffee, tea, or yummy lemony drink that unwinds me. It’s about them. It’s about the companionship. Fellowship. Unwinding, digressing, comfort in silence, and connection. It’s about being together. Building a relationship. Building trust. It’s about being in each others company and filling in all the voids. It’s about getting and giving love.

Nearly four years ago (wow–has it been that long?) I shared this story with my readers. It’s important. It’s a story to stop and consider.

I didn’t write it. Wish I did. Rather it’s one of those things that have been floating around the internet. And maybe you’ve seen it – or a version thereof. Today felt like the right day to re-share.

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the story of the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

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

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more 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 the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between 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, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions. And 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, your house and your 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 will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your spouse. Play with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with your grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18 holes. There will always 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 and said, “I’m glad you asked. The coffee just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

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And there you have it. This is why I don’t care about cleaning (although I do keep things mostly clean). And this is why I spend time in creative-play. Why I clear out evening plans so I can be with my spouse. Why I make it a point to connect with my friends that give me life.

These things, my friends, they are salve for the soul. The “golf balls” of life.

And if you ever get an opportunity to meet your friends for “coffee” — or the Vodka Collins — do it. Because if you don’t, just know that once that opportunity is gone… it’s gone.

Cherish them. Make time for them. THAT’S how life is do-able.

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5 thoughts on “Mayonnaise Jar + 2 Cups of Coffee

  1. I’ve loved this story since the first time I read it on your blog – and can NOT believe it was 4 years ago! Let’s do coffee (or actually Vodka Collins – boy that brings me way back to my 20s) real soon.

  2. I enjoyed reading this blog! 😀 Although there are many different perspectives or ways to look at things, I agree with you in saying, it’s the little things that matter most. Love and compassion should be our driving force, instead of money being the fuel that puts the machine in motion. River Song, aka T~

  3. Pingback: Empty Cup | Hope of light

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