How can a few marbles help us to really live?

Lets start this Monday off with a story.  Since “once upon a time” is such a famous first line, I will use it this fine Monday morning to tell a little story I heard some time ago.  I loved this story, it resonated with me so much, I have shared it with many of my friends.  I think it is an inspiration for me and I hope it will help some of you today to really start living your life.  Many people are alive but are they really living?  
Once upon a time there was an older woman (Named Helen) who had watched her life fly away. She did not feel that she had really lived it. She was afraid to try new things and after her husband had died, she remained pretty much a recluse. She hardly went out and she sat most evenings in front of the TV set.  When she turned sixty, she started thinking “Well, I will have about 20 more years to live and I really want to make them count.” She went out and bought 365 marbles for each year she would have left to live. (365 marbles x twenty years). This seemed like a lot of marbles but she put them in a big bowl in her house and set the bowl on her dressing table.  Each day, she took one marble out and put it in her pocket to think about. 
The years continued to go by and she said the exercise became almost a habit, until one day she reached in the bin and noticed she could see the bottom of the bowl.  Out of curiosity, she counted the marbles and found that she only had 365 marbles left, exactly enough for one year. She was rather stunned for she still had not really started living her life.  She was still doing the same old things in the same old way.  Had the same experiences, ate the same foods, traveled to nowhere and had too many ho hum days.  However, stunned by the revelation that she indeed might have only 365 days on this earth, her attitude changed dramatically. Each marble she withdrew took on increasing significance. The days and marbles continued to go by, but not without her trying to live each day to the fullest.  She started to do things differently.  She took a trip, she met new people, she read some new books, she ate some new foods.  She started to risk doing things she was afraid to do before. She skydived, took a scuba diving class and even learned to ride a motorcycle.  
As fate would have it, she did not live the full 365 days.  Seemingly healthy she succumbed to a brain aneurysm about 15 days before the end of her “allotted” year.  However, before she died, she said that she had finally started to really live.  The activity of counting the marbles had made her aware of how precious each of our days really are. We take them for granted until we only have a few left. Some of don’t even realize this fact until it is too late. How many marbles do you have left in your bowl? Do you count each day as a blessing, or can you hardly wait until it is tomorrow? Do you throw away your week days and live for the weekends? The marbles don’t know the difference between Monday and Saturday.  Are you really living or are you waiting for retirement to start?  

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Bruce Galbreath
    Apr 04, 2012 @ 21:53:44

    In the past hundred years, average life spans have doubled. This is largely due to improved hygiene, better nutrition, and antibiotics. More and more people are living a “full” life span, and the reduction in early deaths has raised the average. But the upper bound, the maximum life span that anyone achieves, has no changed. More people make it to 100, but there were always some who did, and no one makes it to 125.

    I think it likely that this will change, that we will learn more about the biology of aging and find a way to reset the upper bound (as well as extend the period of vigorous health). Suppose I am right about that, and that in 10 years, instead of looking at another 10 we are suddenly looking at an additional 50. Our bucket of marbles will be full again. Would that expansion of time make the individual days less valuable? Would having more time give us an excuse to waste more time?

    Reply

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