“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

I have a friend with an interesting sign on his desk. It reads “To Do List” with the words in large print just below it that state, “Everything.” Many people think of themselves as standing wearily and helplessly at the center of a circle, bristling with tasks, burdens, problems, annoyances and responsibilities rushing in upon them.

Many spend every minute of their day working on solutions to problems and don’t take the time to stop and smell the roses or deal with things that are really important in their lives. Life somehow becomes a huge balancing act between work, family, community, religion and a dozen other things. People need to step back once in a while and examine why they do what they do. They need to contemplate what the most important things are to them and how they can add value to each day.

I appreciate the late religious leader, Billy Graham’s thoughts on being too busy. He states that, “We hurt people by being too busy. Too busy to notice their needs. Too busy to drop off that note of comfort or give encouragement or assurance of love. Too busy to listen when someone needs to talk. Too busy to care.” Some time ago, I visited my children in New York City. I was astonished at the intense business attitudes of those I met. Their job was their life, and if there was any time left over for family and other things, it was not apparent.

While in the city, I read a book of short stories. One of those stories has stayed with me over the years and goes as follows. It seems that there was this gentleman who had spent the first 55 years of his life in a similar work mode. He worked 60 to 70 hours a week and had lost his perspective on his life priorities. He had missed his children’s games, recitals and was not a part of their lives. They were growing up with everything they needed except a dad.

The gentleman in the story sat down one day and did a little math. Some people live more years and some less, but he reasoned the average person lives to be about 75 years old. So he sat down at his calculator and multiplied 75 times 52 and came up with 3,900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has through their entire lifetime. It took him until he was 55 years old to think about all the things he had missed and by this time, he had lived through more than 2,800 Saturdays. He thought that if he lived to be 75, he only had about 1,000 Saturdays left to enjoy.

He decided to find a toy store where he bought every single marble they had. He ended up having to visit three toy stores to roundup 1,000 marbles. He them took them home and put them inside a large clear plastic container in his at-home workshop right next to his radio. Every Saturday since that time, he took out one marbles and threw it away. He found that by watching the marbles diminish, he focused more on the important things in his life. In the last part of the story, the old gentleman had invited his lovely wife out for breakfast. He had gone to the marble jar and had reached the very last marble. He figured that if he made it to the next Saturday, then God had blessed him with a little extra time to be with his loved ones.

There is nothing like watching your time here on earth run out, to help get your priorities straight. The story gave me a lot to think about. Not long ago, I took my wife and children to breakfast at Magelby’s Fresh restaurant where we had a great time and some terrific French toast. My family did think it was a bit strange when I stopped at the toy store in Riverwoods on the way home and bought some marbles and a jar. I’m just hoping that our family will continue to have some great Saturdays together and start thinking a great deal more about the marbles of our lives.