Mazucca: The lesson of the big rocks
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Most of us in the Vail Valley have heard the metaphorical story of the school teacher who was speaking to a group of students and to drive home a point, she used a most interesting metaphor.
As the story goes, the teacher stood in front of the class and placed a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar on a table facing her students. She then pro-duced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them into the jar one at a time.
When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, she asked, “Is this jar full?”
The class unanimously called out, ” Yes it is.”
“Really?” she asked as she reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel and dumped the gravel into the jar while shaking it, causing the pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.
Having filled those spaces, she again asked the students, “Is the jar full?”
This time, the class was suspicious, and one student said, “Probably not.” “Good!” the teacher said and reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand and started dumping the sand in to fill the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel.
Once more she asked, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted.
“Good!” she said as she grabbed a pitcher of water and poured it into the jar until it was filled.
She looked up at the class and asked, “Now, what do you think the point of this illustration is?”
One eager student shouted, ” The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”
“Interesting thought,” said the teacher. “But the truth is, this illustration teaches us that if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”
Each and every day, each of us must deter-mine what the “big rocks” in our lives are. What’s really important to us? What will make a difference a year from now or five or even 10? What do we need to accomplish that will bene-fit ourselves and our families in the long term?
Your biggest rock may be spending more time with loved ones. For some-one else, it could be engaging in a noble project passionately believed in. But regardless of what each of us deems important, the metaphor illus-trates how we must always remember to put the big rocks in first, or we’ll never get them in at all.
Each of us sets priorities in our lives. And guess what? So must govern-ment. However, when government sets priorities, it works a bit differently because it does so with our dollars. To use a different metaphor, our taxes determine the size of the jar.
During World War II, petroleum products, sugar and meat were rationed so that the government could supply a 15-million-man army. During the Bush I and Clinton administrations, Congress made decisions to scale back a number of defense systems in favor of various social programs.
The priorities were evaluated and debated and decisions were made that, in certain specific cases, military expenditures were not the biggest rocks.
Today, we face a similar situation in as much as our elected officials must decide which projects represent the biggest rocks to put into the taxpayers’ mason jar.
So it strikes me that if our elected officials actually had our best interests at heart, they would take the time to consider what the truly big rocks are so that they would not fill the jar with extraneous gravel, sand and water.
But elected officials don’t have to worry about too much extraneous matter because they can always buy a bigger jar. Unfortunately, however, bigger jars can only be purchased with higher taxes, deficit spending or what is even more likely – both!
I use this big rocks metaphor to illustrate how the smartest man in the world (Barack Obama) and his cohorts Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid understood full well all the way back in November what the first and most expensive priority of the new Obama administration was going to be: health care! And with the knowledge that the biggest rock of all was already setting on the table with a price tag of more than a trillion dollars, they nevertheless choose to first ram through their highly-partisan $800 billion pork-laden “nonstimulus” package (filled with gravel, sand and water) that has done absolutely nothing to stimulate the economy.
Is this the change we’re supposed to believe in?
Butch Mazzuca is an Edwards resident.
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