Marbles put focus on getting priorities straight

Vance Air Force Base, Okla. -- I've seen commanders come and go over the past 26 months, and I can't quite believe that I'm the next one out the gate. What will I remember most about Vance and Enid? The true feeling of community and camaraderie, the understanding of our clear mission, and the fantastic men and women of the 71st Flying Training Wing, and the 71st Medical Group in particular.
As a medical group, we were recognized for some pretty fabulous things, but it all comes down to one bottom line...did we accomplish our mission? I think we did, and in spades. Pilots who have graduated here have moved on to missions all over the world, in both direct theater operations and support roles. That's something solid and quantifiable and something each and every one of you should be proud of.
Over the past two years, I've shared something called a Mental Munchie with my troops. It can be described as something that makes you say "Hmmm?" This one, from an unknown author, seemed very appropriate, especially since this article will be printed the day after I drive away, California bound.
The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it's the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it's the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.
A few weeks ago, what began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it.
I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my HAM radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. He was telling whomever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles."
I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say. "Well Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well, but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work 60 or 70 hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter's dance recital."
"Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities." And that's when he began to explain his theory of "a thousand marbles."
"You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about 75 years.
"Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and came up with 3,900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now stick with me Tom, I'm getting to the important part.
"It took me until I was 55 to think about all this in any detail and by that time I had lived through over 2800 Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be 75, I only had about 1000 of them left to enjoy.
"So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1,000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside a large, clear plastic container. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble and thrown it away.
"I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in my life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this Earth run out to help get your priorities straight.
"Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast.
"This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Saturday, then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is more time.
"It was nice to meet you, Tom. I hope you spend more time with your family, and hope to meet you here on the band."
You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a bit to think about. Instead of doing what I had planned, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. "C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast."
"What brought this on?" she asked with a smile.
"Oh, nothing special, it's just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. Hey, can we stop by the toy store while we're out? I need to buy some marbles."
Have a great weekend and may all your Saturdays be special.
Now let's stick a fork in it and call it done!
This is Jim Calhoun, signing off...