A Spiritual Leader’s Recollected Life Lesson to Share with Grandchildren

PriestThe Catholic Priest gave this homily* at the funeral of a dear friend recently.  As he spoke, I recalled that I had heard this life lesson repeated several times before at different houses of worship told by spiritual leaders of many faiths.  Whether it is golf balls or rocks that are used in the story, this life lesson transcends any religion and is a message to share with grandchildren.


A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls right to the top, golf balls about 2″ diameter.

He then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed that it was.

So, the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them in to the jar. He shook the jar lightly.  The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. The students laughed.

He asked his students again if the jar was full? They agreed that yes, it was.

The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this is your life. The golf balls are the important things – your life partner, your children, your family, your health -anything that is so important to you that if it were lost, you would be nearly destroyed.

The pebbles are the other things in life that matter, but on a smaller scale. The pebbles represent things like your job, your friends, your house, your car.

The sand is everything else. The small stuff.

If you put the sand or the pebbles into the jar first, there is no room for the golf balls. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, what you do in your spare time, material things, you will never have room for the things that are truly most important.

Pay attention to the things that are critical in your life. Take your life partner out dancing and reconnect.  Play with your children.

There will always be time to go to work, give a dinner party, go to a concert, 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 pebbles and sand.


We grandparents have so many experiences and life lessons to share with grandchildren.  Sometimes, a life lesson we hear we know we have heard before, but it is always significant to hear it again and pass it along.






*A homily is a speech or sermon given by a priest in a Roman Catholic Church after a scripture has been read. The purpose of the homily is to provide insight into the meaning of the scripture and relate it to the lives of the parishioners of the church.

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