Preciousness of Time - The Warrior's Journey®

Preciousness of Time

Author: Danny White, USMC, (Ret.)

Chow Time. Photo by Marines is licensed under CC By 2.0

When you see someone holding a jar of marbles, do you think “Are you losing your marbles?” then laugh? I used to think the same.

Numbering Your Days

Capt. Shon S. Belcher, Kilo Company commander, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and a native of Fountain Hills, Ariz., talks to role players acting as a village elder and sub governor during the Clear, Hold, Build Exercise 2 at Range 210 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. March 6. The two-day exercise acted as an introduction to counterinsurgency. On the second day of the exercise Marines interacted with Afghani role players and helped them return to a village the Marines had cleared of insurgents the day before. Belcher writes on his hand as a system for keeping track of things like names and numbers.

Then, a mentor shared a story about a jar of marbles that challenged my perspective on life, particularly after witnessing the deaths of my pregnant wife and five-year old son in an accident during a military move. My only wish is that I had understood the concept earlier.

While leading a study tour in Israel, an American named Bill stopped to visit his friend, a Jewish rabbi. Walking into his friend’s office, Bill saw a large glass jar partially filled with a rainbow of colored marbles on his desk. He jokingly asked the Rabbi,  “What are you doing?  Playing marbles with your disciples?”

With a smile, the Rabbi replied, “No” then continued by quoting Psalm 90:12 (KJV) “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Pausing momentarily, the rabbi continued, “After hearing these words, I wanted to have a picture of what ‘numbering my days’ meant. Mulling over the thought, I considered my family tree and how long my grandparents and great-grandparents had lived. Taking a calculated guess on my life expectancy, I determined how many days I already had lived.  I then estimated how many days I had left and bought that number of marbles and this jar.

God and Marbles

NAWA, Helmand Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Staff Sgt. David A. Schaefer, platoon sergeant, 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, touches the dog tags of Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Meinert before saying a silent prayer during a memorial ceremony at Forward Operating Base Spin Ghar Jan. 20. Meinert, 20, from Fort Atkinson, Wis., served in 3rd Platoon and was killed Jan. 10 while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. (Official Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brian A. Tuthill)

“Each morning I take a marble from this jar and talk with God. ‘Lord, I bless you for this day. Please help me with all the activities planned for today –the meetings, my classes, etc.’ Putting the marble in my pocket I proceed with the day.

“At the end of the day, I take the marble out and have a ‘debriefing’ time with God. ‘Lord, I bless You for Your help today. Please forgive me for not being patient during the 10 o’clock meeting. I bless You for helping me teach my disciples.’ After praying, I throw the marble away. With each passing day, the level of marbles in the jar slowly decreases giving me a picture – and a reminder — that I’m not getting any more marbles.”


Do you see the same picture?  I truly was blown away realizing that I already had squandered many “marbles” in my life – never to get them back. As I continued mulling over this picture, the “blinding flash of the obvious” hit me: based on my “gene pool,” I had less than half of my marbles left! What would I do with my remaining marbles?

I can get more money and things. I can’t get more time. The corollary to this thought struck me: the most precious gift anyone can give is his or her time! (So “Thank you” for sharing your time and reading this article.)

As a lesson learned, I daily carry a marble in my pocket. When I pull out my keys and see the marble I am reminded, “Be wise in how you use today’s marble – yesterday is gone and tomorrow hasn’t arrived.”

Are you “losing” your marbles or are you “using” them wisely?

The content of this article comes from “A Widower’s Walk: From Desert to Destiny” (2014) and is copyrighted by Daniel F. White, II. Used with permission.

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