Sunday, June 28, 2015

It's All About the Ping Pong Balls: Getting Our Priorities Straight

"If I had my life to live over again I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded."
-- Erma Bombeck
Last weekend I was in Philadelphia to attend Joining FORCEs Against Hereditary Cancer, the annual conference of FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, the largest national organization devoted solely to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

During the Friday morning no o'clock breakfast and training session for the many volunteers who were there from throughout the country, Diane, one of organization's leaders, demonstrated for us the value of prioritizing in our busy lives. Although it was neither a new nor an original demo, it was, without a doubt, an extremely timely and essential reminder in a room full of individuals whose time is at a premium.

Using a large Mason jar and a few other props, Diane began by filling the jar with ping pong balls, representing the most important things in our lives. My ping pong balls include time (and space) with my dad, my sister, my nephew, and my friends, as well as time to read, write, attend minyan and Torah study,  poke around the city, and, for a bit of totally mindless relaxation, play Words with Friends and watch some television -- mostly Jeopardy, the Food Network, and yes, sometimes even a little QVC.

Next, she added pebbles, which represent the next-in-line important things and fell into the jar around the ping pong balls. Pebbles in my life include my job, my volunteer work with FORCE, and taking care of my health.

After the pebbles, Diane poured sand in the jar. The grains are the minutia in our lives: grocery shopping, paying bills, laundry and dry-cleaning, housecleaning, maintaining the car, mowing the lawn, and the like. I bet that I'm not the only one for whom these mundane tasks (and getting them done) take up a disproportionate amount of time, energy, and worry -- because we let them.

Finally, she poured a cup of coffee into the Mason jar to represent everything else we have to make time for in our lives, such as visits from the in-laws (depending, of course, on how you feel about yours). By then, although the jar's contents were what my sister would call "a hot steaming mess," everything was in. Filled in reverse, as this video illustrates, the jar would not begin to hold all the things that take time in our lives -- least of all our ping pong balls.

Indeed, it's all about the ping pong balls -- and making sure they fit.