By Jean Elizabeth Miles
Distinguished Young Woman of Alabama for 2013
Recently I read a story about a college professor and a teaching illustration he used in his classroom. Beginning class, he silently placed a mayonnaise jar in front of him and filled it with golf balls. He then asked his student if they felt the jar was full, and they agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of small pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar and filled all the open crevices with the pebbles. He again asked his students if the jar was full, and again they agreed that it was. Next, he picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, it filled in all the remaining spaces, but again he asked his class if it was full and, snickering, they unanimously responded that indeed it was. Lastly, he pulled 2 cups of coffee from under his desk and poured them into the jar, completely filling even the spaces between the sand. He then proceeded to explain his odd, yet interesting illustration. The jar represents your life. The golf balls – they’re the important things – God, family, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are things that matter, like your job, house, and car. The sand represents all the small stuff. If you put the sand in the jar first, there isn’t any room for the pebbles or golf balls. All space is consumed by meaningless things. The same goes for life. If you spend all of your time and energy on the small stuff, you won’t have any room for the things that are important to you. The things that really matter. So… pay attention to the things critical to your happiness. Worship with your family. Spend time with good friends. There will always be time to wash the car and study for the test later. Take care of the golf balls first, the rest is just sand. You may be wondering what the coffee represents. It just goes to show that no matter how full your life may seem, there is always room for a couple cups of coffee with a friend.
Coming to college, I felt as though I had it all together. My golf balls and pebbles were securely dropped into my mayonnaise jar long before I loaded the car to come to Auburn, Alabama. I anxiously waited to see what involvement would quickly become my sand. I thought I wanted to join a sorority, I knew I wanted to get involved in the Freshman Leadership Program, but other than that, I wasn’t sure at all. College was an area of uncharted waters for me, and while I had watched my sister excel at Auburn, I knew my experience would be different. My hopes were big and my goals were bigger. I was ready to accept this challenge head on. As my first semester as a college freshman comes to a close, I look back and realize the truth behind this “mayonnaise jar” mentality. Classes were not easy, and I had to learn how to study. Schedules became filled with meetings and obligations, and I had to learn how to bend. The 3 hours separating my family and me seemed to grow, and I had to learn how to push through. Had my golf balls not been placed in the jar first, the “sands” of my life would have quickly taken over. The involvement and social aspects of college that I hoped so strongly for became the one thing that could possibly stand between me and my ultimate goal at Auburn University – making a difference in the lives of those around me.
The more I ponder this idea, the more I begin to realize the incredible journey and opportunity that lies ahead. Not only will I experience incredible highs and lows that will challenge me, but I will find more and more of myself, determining who I want to be for the rest of my life. Personally, I don’t know if I could get through these next 4 years without these two pieces of truth. First, I cannot rely on myself or this world for personal satisfaction and fulfillment. But, secondly, I don’t have to. The roller coaster ride we call life has taught me more than simply how to survive. It has taught me the dire importance of relying on God. Every day, we can wake up knowing that He pulled us through our past and is preparing us now for our future.
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future.”
“Be strong and courageous, do not fear. For the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
These verses remind me on a daily basis that whatever has passed and whatever lies before me all add up to God’s perfect plan for my life. A plan that is far better than any I could ever fabricate. No matter what you may face in life, know it has purpose, because you have purpose. Everyone has something they can offer. Whether it is a spiritual gift, a talent, or even the opportunity to write a blog, you can choose to make a difference with whatever resources you have available. Every morning, you awaken to a brand new day. Some days may be busy while others are spent lounging around the house, but whatever you do, you can never get that day back. No matter what, the opportunity for a mulligan will never come. You are trading a day of your life away, so what are you going to get in return? How will you make every second count? If you have breath, you have the ability. God uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary. Today, I challenge you to look at every new day as a new opportunity to make a difference. Set goals and be ambitious. Imagine if everyone simply set one small, seemingly meaningless goal every day. By the end of the year, each person would have made over 350 personal accomplishments. Imagine the difference we could make! So get up, go out, and, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Because together, we can change the world.
Jean Elizabeth Miles is a college freshman at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama majoring in Civil Engineering. Originally from Rehobeth, Alabama, Jean Elizabeth was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Alabama for 2013. Learn more about Jean Elizabeth here!