Ping Pong Balls, Sand, Coffee & Life!!!
I struggle every year with the “New Year’s” themed meeting. First meeting back after the New Year, and I always want to do a ‘New Year/New You’, ‘Resolution/Goals’, ‘Fresh Start’ type of meeting, but let’s face it…how many twists on that ‘theme’ can 1 person think of? And, trust me, I have come up with A LOT over the years!!! This year, a friend had shared a story she found titled “Golf Balls, Sand, Coffee, & Life” and it just seemed like a perfect meeting activity/discussion. Not really a ‘New Year’ specific theme, it is really a good idea for anytime, but it worked well for my teens for our first meeting of 2013!
What you’ll need:
-A large jar / vase that is clear and able to be seen through
-A good amount of ping pong balls or golf balls – (I used multicolor ones since it is all I could find at the Dollar Store!) (:
-A bag of sand (I purchased a bag of purple sand cheaply at Michael’s Arts & Crafts. They actually didn’t have white at the time so I went with purple since the ping pong balls were multi color anyway)
-A bag of pebbles (also purchased at Michael’s for $1.)
-A container of Black Coffee
How I ran the meeting:
1) I began the meeting with our usual greeting and sharing before I brought the vase/jar out.
2) I put the vase/jar on the center table and asked the kidz to guess how many ping pong balls they thought it would take to fill the jar. We wrote all of their guesses down to see who got the closest to the correct amount.
3) I put all the ping pong balls that would fit into the vase/jar. I asked the kidz if they thought the jar was full? Did they think anything else would fit into the jar?
4) I then poured the pebbles into the vase/jar. (filling all the spaces as the story explains). I asked again if the jar was full.
5) I then poured the sand into the vase/jar. (filling all the spaces as the story explains). I asked again if the jar was full.
6) I then poured the coffee into the vase/jar. (filling all the spaces as the story explains. I asked finally if the jar was completely full.
*** MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH PEBBLES, SAND, COFFEE to fill your jar/vase. I bought this great vase (in the picture above) at Michael’s for $2.49, but I did not purchase quite enough pebbles, sand, or coffee to completely fill it. Next time, I will either use a smaller jar/vase, or buy more pebbles, sand, & coffee!
Once this was complete, I read the following story:
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the jar and two cups of coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonaise jar and filled it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked one more time if the jar was full. The students responded with a loud “YES”.
The professor then picked up the two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the importnat things. God, Family, Children, 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 the things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else, the small stuff” he said.
“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, ” There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you…” he told them.
“So…pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Worship with your family. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Spend time with good friends. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap. Take care of the golf balls first – the tings that really matter. Set you priorities. The rest is just sand.”
One of the students raiser her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.
The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there is always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”
After I read the story:
I handed out extra ping pong balls and sharpee markers to the kidz. Each teen got 2 balls. I asked them to write on one of the balls the ‘big stuff’. The ‘golf ball’ stuff from the story. I asked them to write on the other ball the ‘small stuff’. The ‘pebble’ stuff from the story.
We shared with eachother what the ‘big things’ and ‘small things’ were in our life and how easy it is to get distracted. We talked about how we need to keep focused on the ‘big stuff’ and not let the sand and small stuff fill up our life. We made the connection to New Year’s resolutions and how about a week after New Years, the resolutions are less important and about two weeks in, forgotten or dropped all together. We discussed this for the remainder of the meeting and all the kidz went home with their two ping pong balls to keep in a safe place. I encouraged them to take them out and look at them occasionally through the year to remind themselves of the important ‘big stuff’ and how important it was to focus on that, instead of letting the small stuff fill up our lives.
It ended up being a great meeting and a good discussion. I did it with both Middle School and High School Youth Groups and it was appropriate and thought provoking for both ages. Should I do it again, I will remember to use a smaller jar/vase or make sure I have more pebbles, sand and coffee. The picture of the final filled jar is below. (remember, my jar was bigger and I ran out of sand, pebbles, and coffee)