Have you ever learned a lesson you didn’t expect to?
Make Room For What Counts
There’s always room for the important stuff.
The teacher stood at the front of her English class, a collection of odd things laid out on the desk in front of her. The children were quite used to her eccentric ways and even looked forward to seeing what crazy thing she’d come up with next.
As the children settled into their seats, she picked up the biggest of her props, a large empty jar and started to put the golf balls next to it inside. The children fell quiet as they turned to see what she was doing. She hadn’t uttered a word at this point.
By the time she’d put the last ball into the pot, every child was sat in his or her seat and all eyes were turned towards her; silent.
She turned to the class and asked the children if they thought the jar was full. They all looked at her as if she was mad and yelled “Yes!”
The teacher then picked up a box of pebbles and proceeded to pour them into the jar. She shook the glass gently so that the pebbles rolled into the gaps between the golf balls.
She asked the children again “Is the jar full now?” and of course they again replied “Yes!”
“Are you sure?” she asked, “Because you said that last time and I found enough room for all those pebbles; are you sure?”
Most of the children shouted that yes, they were sure. Only a few kept quiet as they tried to work out what was coming next.
Next the teacher picked up a bag of sand she’d collected from the beach a few days earlier and poured that in on top of the golf balls and pebbles. As you’d expect, the tiny grains slipped easily between the larger objects and disappeared into the big jar.
The children squealed with delight!
“So,” asked the teacher “It wasn’t so full was it! Do you think it’s full now? or can we fit something else in?”
The children weren’t so sure this time. Excitement and anticipation bubbled around the classroom as they tried to decide if the teacher had another rabbit to pull out of the hat.
“I know” said the teacher, “If you think the vase is full now, go and stand over by the window, and if you think there is room for this to fit in, go and stand by the door”
The children looked to where the teacher showed them a brown paper bag. They couldn’t see what was in it, but it was about half the size of the jar which now looked full.
“I’ll give you a couple of minutes to make your choice” she said and allowed the children to talk amongst themselves.
At the end of the time, she told them to pick sides and watched as all but two children gathered by the window.
“Before we see if we can get any more into the vase, one of you tell me why you picked that side” said the teacher.
One of the more vocal students stepped forward, looking self assured,
“Because we can see that it’s already full. There’s no room for anything else, it’s full right to the top.”
The teacher turned to the two children on the other side and asked them if they wanted to change sides. One of them looked almost fearful and said yes, and with a sorry face moved over to stand by the window.
A single little girl remained by the door. Her bottom lip trembled a bit as she realised she was alone. The teacher gave her a reassuring smile and asked her why she had chosen to stay there.
“Well,” started the small girl, a hitch in her voice, “I thought the flower pot was full the first and second time, but you still managed to get more in, so I figured you might still be able to squeeze something else in that none of us has thought of.” and as she finished she looked down at the floor, clearly unsure if she was right.
The other kids were starting to giggle and whisper, so the teacher invited the lone pupil to come and help her.
From the paper bag, she produced a bottle of water. The little girl excitedly pulled the top off and ever so carefully tipped the water into the jar.
The gaggle of children by the window exasperatedly, slapped their legs and foreheads as they realised they’d been beaten.
The little girl who’d stood firm had a grin from ear to ear.
“I knew it! I knew it!” she squealed, “There was more room, we couldn’t see it but it was there all along, waiting for the right thing to come along and fill it. I was afraid when everyone else went to the other side that I was wrong, but in my heart I knew I was right.”
The teacher quickly forgot her planned speech on how if you worry about the little things and fill your life with them, there will be no room for the big, important stuff. This brave little girl who’d defied her fear and her class mates had delivered a far stronger message that day, both to her class mates and her teacher.