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The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee

13 July 2011 2 Comments

Written by Summer Aura’s House Intern, Elise Cevetello:

I moved not only to a different country but to a different continent at age 18. It was a hard first three or four months, but I learned a lot about who I am. The Professor of my Freshman Seminar class helped me to do that by sharing with me the following article:

The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee

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

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 an 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–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. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your  spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. 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. “I’m glad you asked.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

Three years later I still like to look back at these words because as they brought comfort to me years ago, they still inspire me now to take pause and appreciate all that I have. -To step back from my busy life and not get caught up in the rush of the day. -To examine my priorities and how well I have been living according to them.

Donating, sharing knowledge and giving my time to others is something that benefits someone who needs it as well as makes me happy and during these crazy summer months it is easy to let that slip our minds. I encourage you to think about the golf balls in your life. Here at Aura’s House, we hope that a passion for helping others is one of them.

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