began many years ago when I was talking with an older man in the park one day and he explained how 20 years or so earlier he had decided that he would stop taking his weekends for granted. He felt he had spent years wasting his days sleeping until the afternoon, watching television the rest of the day, and eventually falling asleep in his recliner with a beer in his hand. He felt something was wrong with that picture, so he decided to do something about it.
He had an idea, he went out and bought a bunch of marbles. He grabbed an old glass jar from his garage and poured a ton of marbles in – one marble for each weekend he had left in his life. He was 55 at the time, and assumed he had about 25 years or so worth of weekends left – about 1400 marbles in total.
Every Saturday from that day on, he’d start his day by going downstairs to his garage. He’d grab one of the marbles and carry it with him throughout the weekend, and at the end of the weekend, he’d throw it away. He said it reminded him that this particular day in his life would never come again.
He was a bit sad as he was telling me this story, and I asked “Why?”. He went on to say that on that day, he had picked the last marble out of the jar. His eyes welled up a bit as he thought about the 20 years of weekends that had come and gone, and how dramatically different they were from the ones that proceeded them. How each one had a sense of urgency, of intention. How each was an opportunity to make his life, and the lives of his loved ones, so much better.
He told me that he felt so fortunate, not only that he had been able to experience all those purposeful weekends, but that he’d been given more than he had planned. He said every single weekend after this one was a gift, and his heart was filled with gratitude. As he walked away from me, he turned and said “Remember your days are numbered.”.
The story struck me because for almost 40 years I had coasted. The activities I’ve engaged in, the ways I’ve spent my weekend time had been somewhat devoid of this kind of intention. They lacked this kind of gratitude. They almost never had the urgency that comes with the realization that you’re never going to get that day back.
My typical weekend used to be a lot like that old man, minus the recliner and the beer, and the TV. I sleep in sometimes, I maybe do a couple of chores around the house, I would go to work, I go eat at some nice restaurant I don’t really need to go to, and eat way more food than I should, stopping only once my stomach is upset. Then I come home and go to bed.
One could argue that such a routine was perfectly normal, that there was nothing wrong with it. After all, I had plenty more weekends left. But, I thought, if the next 10 years are anything like the last 10, those weekends will blow by in a blink. I’m told, things only speed up as you get older.
Even if I did have an endless supply of weekends left, that wouldn’t change the point. I have a worldview that says that we’re here for a reason, to do something worthwhile, to make our world a better place.
But it’s a worldview that resided in my head and in conversations over dinner, and rarely if ever found its way into the daily routine of my life. My life was about convenience, sharing with people that I’m talented and funny, and having enough money to take care of myself and my family.
I realized It was not a life marked by the passion I wanted to have. And I think the key to changing that had an awful lot to do with that guy and his marbles.
I needed to learn to number my days, to treat each one with the respect and the focus and intentionality it deserves. Because the old man was right – each day is a gift, and for me to waste one being lazy and gluttonous, and selfish is unacceptable.
I figured I had 2240 weekends left at that point (ever tried to buy 2240 marbles?). And I planned to use those weekends much more wisely than the first 2240. Today, Jan 5, 2023, I have 1064 left and the last 1176 have been, for the most part, well spent. And I intend to spend each and every one of the rest of them with purpose, love, laughter, and gratitude.
So, if you should see me on the weekend, ask me to “show me your marble”.