Inspirational anecdotes highlight important life lessons to live a simple, joyful, and fulfilling life. Here are three inspiring stories that are thought-provoking and talk about the strength of the human spirit and true values that are worth pursuing.

Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand

At the beginning of a philosophy class at university, the professor stood with some innocuous looking items on his table – an empty mayonnaise jar, some rocks, some pebbles, and some sand. The college students looked on with interest, wondering what the professor was up to and unable to guess what the demonstration was going to be.

Without saying a word, the professor started putting the small rocks into the mayonnaise jar one by one. The students were puzzled, but the professor did not offer any explanation just yet. Once the rocks were up to the neck of the jar, the professor spoke for the first time that day. He asked the students if they thought the jar was full. The students unanimously agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up the pebbles on his table and slowly poured them into the jar. The small pebbles found their way in between the larger rocks. The professor then lightly shook the jar to allow the pebbles to settle in the open spaces in the jar. He then again asked the students if they thought the jar was full, and the students again agreed.

The students now knew what the professor would do next, but still did not understand why. The professor picked up the sand and poured it into the mayonnaise jar. The sand, as expected, filled up any remaining space in the jar. The professor for the last time asked his students if the jar was full, and the answer was again a resounding yes.

The professor then explained that the mayonnaise jar was an analogy for life. He likened the rocks to the most important things in life – good health, your spouse, your children – all the things that make life complete. He then compared the pebbles to things that make your life comfortable such as your job, your home, and your car. Finally, he explained the sand is the small stuff that doesn’t really matter.

Putting the sand in the jar first will leave no space for the rocks or the pebbles, the professor elucidated. Similarly, cluttering your life with the small stuff will leave no room for the big things that really count.

Pay attention to everything that is essential for a happy fulfilling life. Spend time with your children and spouse. Fixing the disposal and organizing that dinner party can wait. Holding a grudge against someone is not worth your while. Get your priorities right and differentiate between the rocks, the pebbles, and the sand.

The Mother With One Eye

My mother had only one eye. When I was growing up, I hated her for it. I hated the uninvited attention it got me at school. I hated how the other children stared at her and looked away in disgust. My mother worked two jobs to provide for the family, but I was just embarrassed by her and didn’t want to be seen with her.

Every time my mother came to visit me at school, I wanted her to disappear. I felt a surge of hatred towards the woman who made me the laughing stock of the school. In a moment of extreme anger, I even once told my mother I wanted her to die. I was completely unconcerned about her feelings.

As I grew up, I did whatever was in my power to distance myself from my mother. I studied hard and got a job overseas so I wouldn’t have to meet her. I got married and started raising a family of my own. I got busy with my job and family and with providing a comfortable life for my beloved children. I didn’t even think about my mother anymore.

Out of the blue, my mother came to visit one day. Her one-eyed face scared my young children and they started crying. I was angry at my mother for showing up unannounced and I forbid her to ever return to my home and new family life. I yelled and screamed, but my mother quietly apologized and left without saying another word.

An invitation to a high school reunion took me back to my hometown after decades. I could not resist driving past my childhood home and stopping by the old shack. My neighbors told me my mother had passed away and left a letter for me.

“My dear child:

I must begin by apologizing for visiting your home unannounced and frightening your beautiful children. I am also deeply sorry that I was such an embarrassment and source of humiliation to you when you were growing up.

I have learned that you may be coming back to town for your reunion. I may no longer be there when you come, and I think it is time to tell you an incident that happened when you were a young child. You see, my dear child, you were involved in an accident and lost one eye. I was devastated at the thought of my beloved child growing up with only one eye. I wanted you to see the beautiful world in all its glory, so I gave you my eye.

My dear child, I always have and always will love you from the bottom of my heart. I have never regretted my decision to give you my eye, and I am at peace that I was able to give you the ability to enjoy a complete life.

Your loving mother.”

Settling Accounts

To pay for his education, a poor boy used to sell goods from door to door. One day, the young boy found he was really hungry but had no money to buy any food. He decided to ask for something to eat when he knocked on the front door of the next house.

A beautiful young woman opened the door, and the boy lost his nerve. He simply asked for a drink of water, too embarrassed to ask for food. The young woman brought him a glass of milk, which the boy greedily drank.

The boy asked her how much he owed, but she simply smiled and said her mother had taught her to be kind to others and never expect anything in return. The young boy left the woman’s home with a full tummy and a heart full of renewed strength to push on with his education and continue working hard. Just when he was ready to quit, the woman had instilled in him newfound faith and fortitude.

Years later, in a big city, renowned surgeon Dr. Howard Kelly was called to consult on a woman who was suffering from a rare disease. When the woman told him the name of the small town where she lived, Dr. Kelly felt a faint memory arise in his mind, and then suddenly recognition dawned on him. She was the woman who had given him the glass of milk many years ago.

The doctor went on to provide the woman with the very best care and made sure she received special attention. In fact, it was his skills as a doctor that saved her life. After a long and difficult hospitalization, the woman was finally ready for discharge home. The woman was worried it would take her years to settle her account with the hospital. Her serious illness and long hospital stay had produced a substantial bill. However, when she received the bill, she found that Dr. Kelly had paid the entire bill himself and written a small note for her.

The note simply stated: Paid in full with a glass of milk.

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