Episode 18: One Thousand Marbles

Episode 18: One Thousand Marbles

How do we spend our time on the planet? Do we fill it with mindless activity, or do we consider it a precious gift? In 1,000 Marbles, author Jeff Davis shares a modern parable about discovering and appreciating life’s finite nature.

In Silver Linings, Terry Lees shares how the concept of 1,000 Marbles is quite personal for him and how he applied it to The Saturdays of My Life. Terry teaches how to get your priorities right and make the Saturdays of your life count.

Listen to the episode below, or continue on to read the transcript.

Episode Transcript:

How do we spend our time on the planet? Do we fill it with mindless activity, or do we consider it a precious gift? In 1,000 Marbles, author Jeff Davis shares a modern parable about discovering and appreciating life’s finite nature.

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 backyard patio 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 to listen to a Saturday morning talk show. I heard an older sounding gentleman, with a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whoever he was talking with something about “a thousand marbles”. I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say…

“Well, Tom, 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 sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital.” He continued, “Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities.”

And that’s when he began to explain his theory of a “thousand marbles.” “You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five 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 fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail”, he went on, “and by that time I had lived through over two thousand eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand 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 of a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear. 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 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.

You could have heard a pin drop on the radio when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work that morning. Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. “C’mon honey, I’m taking you and the kids to breakfast.”

“What brought this on?” she asked with a smile. “Oh, nothing special, it’s just been a while since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. Hey, while we’re out, I’d like to stop at a toy store. I need to buy some marbles.”

In the Book of Psalms, in the Old Testament of the Bible, there is this advice: Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart [Psalm 90:12]. And in the New Testament, the Apostle James says: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit” – you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears” [James 4:13-15].

The concept of 1,000 Marbles is quite personal for me. Not long after I celebrated my 55th birthday, I came across that story and because it did touch my soul, I went shopping to Kmart and a couple of toy stores for 1,000 marbles, which I placed in a large jar, along with a home-made sign I created – The Saturdays of My Life. Just like the elderly man in the story, every Saturday from that time forward, I removed one marble from the jar. I didn’t throw them away, but kept them in a series of bags, which I later gave to young boys at a local Primary school. Well, I have no more marbles left. I removed the last one from the jar nearly three years ago, so I too am on extra time. And I still value the Saturdays of my life.

1,000 Marbles offers a thousand thought-provoking ideas for what to do on your Saturdays.

Load the family into the car and take a drive to the Lake. It’s always better if you try to get lost on such a trip! Go fishing. Remember, a bad day of fishing beats a good day of working, anytime. What about a ride in a hot-air balloon? Perhaps you could spend a marble doing just that one day. On a warm summer day, I like to spread a blanket on the ground and take a nap. There’s nothing like sleeping outside. Get your priorities right, make the Saturdays of your life count and look for the Silver Lining.


This is Terry Lees

[Music: It’s a Great Day to Be Alive – Travis Tritt]