Swans Commentary » swans.com October 22, 2007  



Small Stuff


by Peter Byrne





(Swans - October 22, 2007)  

He:  I want you to see this. My old Buddy sent it.

She:  Army snapshots? Later.

He:  It's not pictures. This is his philosophy of life.

She:  Not now. I've just got out of bed. The pooch hasn't been fed.

He:  You've got no heart. This is godamn touching, inspirational. You need it. The pooch needs it. The country needs it.

She:  My god, no. Not at this hour of the morning. I'm still feeling my way. Give it to me in Braille.

He:  The title is The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee.

She:  The coffee sounds good. But down the drain with the mayonnaise, quick. The double N is turning my stomach.

He:  Will do. Drink this black. But listen hard. It will change your life.

She:  Again? I just changed my life the other day with that column you snipped from the Sunday Trib.

He:  I'm going to make you listen. It's for your own good.

She:  It's people doing me good that's floored me. That goodness malarkey is heavier than a candidate's God-bless-you.

He:  This is like a hot little sermon, but short, with jokes.

She:  Some morning this is. Now you're telling me you wore khaki with a writer who does uplift?

He:  Writer? My Buddy can't even spell grammar. A well-wisher e-mailed him this sunbeam. It's all over the Net, no author named.

She:  Unsigned? That means it came from the Big Spam-Man Upstairs.

He:  Shut up and listen.

When things in your life seem too much to handle, remember the mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee.

A teacher sat at his desk with some items before him. When the class began, he picked up a very large, 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 teacher then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook it. The pebbles rolled into the openings between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The teacher next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand to all appearances filled the remaining space. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students replied yes.

The teacher then took two cups of coffee and poured them into the jar. The coffee settled between the grains of sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the teacher, as the laughter died, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things -- God, family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions -- things that if everything else was lost and only they remained would still make your life full. The pebbles are the other things that matter, like your job, house, and car. The sand is all the rest -- the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first, there would be 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. So pay attention to what's essential to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Go out to dinner with your partner. 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 a hand and inquired what the coffee stood for. The teacher smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It simply goes to show that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."

He:  So what do you think?

She:  They shouldn't have hooked your Buddy up to the Internet. Wasn't he the harmless guy who used to shoot animals?

He:  He had this ambition to get himself a bear before he cashed in his chips.

She:  Jesus, and now he's going to hunt golf balls.

He:  Wait a minute. This is like the bible or a presidential address. It's a parable.

She:  I get that much. It means something different from what it says.

He:  That's it.

She:  Myself I have no special yen for sand. But, tell me, what's the author's big grief with it?

He:  Think, for crisake. Sand is small stuff, like worrying about feeding the pooch, or pouring coffee down your gullet in the morning.

She:  It was that coffee bit that threw me. The guy plays with pebbles. That's all right, it seems. That's big stuff. But he couldn't care less what I drink for breakfast. It doesn't count.

He:  Right.

She:  But when Mr. Uplift says so, I have to sit down with a friend -- I suppose a husband would do -- and gulp two cups of java posthaste.

He:  Look. You have to understand. The sand isn't sand, but the coffee is coffee.

She:  I hope he keeps anything gritty out of my cup. This guy talks like a tea drinker.

He:  Be serious for once. The man's talking about life. That's the opposite of when you're dead.

She:  I see that. It's like being the guy with the smoking gun and not the stretched out bear.

He:  Cut it out.

She:  Okay, okay. Let me see the keep-smiling puff.

He:  Here.

She:  Hmmm. A couple of questions. If God's a golf ball, where does that leave our Prez? They don't make marbles that small. As for favorite passions, what if mine runs to heroin? Should I round out my life on the nod? I won't have time to play another 18 when I'm looking under rocks for my dealer.

He:  Give me that letter back. You're besmirching Holy Optimism.

She:  And I don't see how Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay fit into the friggin' jar. Is that sand from Iraq? He'll need a bigger container for all the body parts. Maybe he and our Buddy leave foreign affairs to the Deciders in D.C. Fine. All that's a long way from their country club. But what's this about a car being a thing that matters? There are a billion non-drivers out there who are lucky if they have shoes to walk in. It's shoes that matter. Without them the deadbeats never turn up for their medical checkups.

He:  Get out of here. You're contaminating me. I want to sit down and answer my Buddy's letter on a cheerful note.

She:  Tell him to go back to chasing bears. They're pessimists and ought to be eliminated.

He:  Leave me alone. I'm trying to concentrate.

She:  Have a cup of coffee or two. You might sprout a parable. I'm taking the pooch for a gallop. We'll look for some real sand to shit on.


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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art13/pbyrne51.html
Published October 22, 2007