The following passage come from my acclaimed book Impossible is an Illusion.
Alex Semendinger is a great kid. All the Semendinger boys are great kids. (Of course, I may be little biased in my assessment.)
Although Alex has many great attributes – he is kind, understanding, funny, smart, hard working, focused – as he grew up, organization was not one of them.
“Alex, is your room clean?” was an often-heard question in the Semendinger house. The follow-up answer, “Yes” also led to an interesting dynamic. Alex’s definition of clean, and my definition of clean, were not the same thing.
Growing up, Alex loved marbles. As marbles seemed to be a frequently gifted item, I believe there was a time when he possessed no fewer than 45,765 marbles. Alex’s collection contained marbles of various shapes, designs, and colors. Cats-eyes, agates, onionskins, alleys, solids, micas, and peppermint swirls, he had them all. It was an impressive array of marbles.
Part of the problem was that I liked marbles too. They’re fun to have and fun to play with. And I like buying things my kids enjoy.
“Hey, look, marbles! I’ll get these for Alex!”
Many years ago, Alex’s room was more than a bit messy. Part of the clutter involved 42,342 of Alex’s marbles. There were marbles everywhere.
Marbles were all over the floor.
There were marbles under the bookshelves.
Marbles were under Alex’s desk.
There were marbles under his bed.
There were even marbles in the bed. If the Guinness World Record people had arrived at our house, we would have been in the running for two accomplishments – The World’s Messiest Room and The Most Marbles Ever Scattered Across a Small Area.
From Alex’s perspective, his room represented a marble masterpiece.
(Looking back on this, and now forgetting the emotions of the moment, I must say that Alex was probably correct. Never before, or since, were there so many marbles arranged in such a manner. This may have been one of the greatest moments in the history of the world, but now it is lost forever.)
Forty two thousand marbles, and more, were in every possible place.
The marbles had been scattered for days, maybe even weeks.
Of course, I was too lost in the mess to appreciate this singular work of three-dimensional art. Instead I saw a mess and a big one at that.
Marbles were on the window sill.
Marbles were squished between the pages of Alex’s books.
There were marbles inside Alex’s pillow cases.
There were even marbles inside Alex’s pillows. (I still don’t know how they got in there.)
And it made me think…
Alex loved his marbles, but I believed that, because he had so many, he didn’t appreciate them. The vast quantity of marbles, the myriad marbles, had rendered them, individually, insignificant.
I talked about this with Alex. I asked him if he liked his marbles. He said he did.
I then asked if the way the marbles were scattered demonstrated an appreciation of the marbles. In spite of his possible artist talents and the merits of his creation, he had to agree that they did not.
I then asked, “Alex, if you had only one marble, what would you do with it?”
We talked and thought about that. I suggested that if he had only one marble, he would have treated it with great appreciation – it would have been a cherished possession. I pictured a special box or a special place where that marble would be stored each day after Alex played with it. If Alex had only one marble, I argued, he would treasure that marble as if it were a precious and highly valuable stone.
“Alas!” I said. “It is because of the great abundance of marbles that you fail to value and treasure them.” (I do not believe I really ever said Alas!, but I do like to write it.)
We live in a materialistic society that is always looking to get more of everything. We love possessing and collecting and gathering and hoarding. We love to say, “I have.” And we always seem to want more.
I wonder if we lose something in our desire to have an abundance of everything. I think we do.
What we have in abundance, we do not treasure.
(I am going to copyright that previous sentence. It may be the most articulate thing I ever wrote. I wrote it, looked back on it, and said aloud, “Wow, that’s deep, concise, and to the point. I must have heard it somewhere.” So, I typed the words and searched the Internet for them – and no one has said it before. It’s my quote. I’m proud of it.)
What I discovered might rightfully be called The Marble Principle (Or the dear reader might just think, “This author has lost his marbles.”).
What we have in abundance, we do not treasure. It’s true, not just for marbles, but for most of things we have in life, even the things we don’t realize we have.
Take, for example, our health. Do we treasure our health when we’re feeling our best?
Or time. When it seems like we have so much of it, do we really value it? It seems to escape us quicker than we realize. I think this applies on so many levels:
The school year, in September and October, seems like it will take a long, long time to complete, and yet, in June, I often wonder, “Where did the time go?”
Childhood is also like this – at least when we view the childhood of others. We always seem to ask, “How did my children get so big, so fast?”
Our own lives – “I’m HOW old?” and “Where did my hair go?”
Maybe this is where the phrase, “Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses” comes from. Maybe the person who said that was saying, “Don’t forget to take stock, to cherish the things we have (family, friends, jobs, money, health, time, marbles…). Take notice of them. Appreciate them. Make the most out of them.”
In life, it is often the little things that matter. This was the lesson I trying to teach my son – because it’s true.
The little things really do matter. It’s the little things that make a life.
Like a marble. Even if it is just one of 45,765.