By Dale Martin, City Manager
November offers two significant days for me. One is singularly professional and the other is collectively personal.
First, November is the anniversary of my tenure as the city manager in Fernandina Beach. I had never heard of the community before I responded to the search notice for the position. I never visited the community prior to the days of the formal interview.
When I arrived, though, well after midnight on a September Sunday, the “magic” of the community was evident. Without seeing a single person, I could sense that this was a wonderful community.
The two-day interview process was a whirlwind and engaging. I met many people through the course of the process. The most important people in the process, however, were the city commissioners at the time. I am forever grateful to Mayor Ed Boner, Vice Mayor Johnny Miller, and Commissioners Pat Gass, Robin Lentz, and Tim Poynter for their confidence in me to lead this community, which officially began on November 30, 2015.
Building upon my thanks to those city commissioners, the other November day is Thanksgiving. It is a simple day, often celebrated more for the gateway to the December holiday season than for its own purpose much like Memorial Day is often “celebrated” as the start of summer.
I recently learned of a story titled “The Mayonnaise Jar.” The original author of the story is unknown, but that does not detract from the message, which is relevant, I believe, to the purpose and meaning of Thanksgiving.
The Mayonnaise Jar begins with a professor placing an empty jar on a desk in front of his students. He fills the jar with as many golf balls as possible and then asks the students if the jar is full. Thinking only of golf balls, the students indicate that the jar is full.
He then reveals another jar containing small pebbles, which he pours into the jar “full” of golf balls. The pebbles settle into the gaps around the golf balls. “Is the jar full?” he asks again. The students laughingly indicate, “Yeah, now it is.” The professor, however, then adds sand to the jar, which “fills” the jar even more. “Is it full?” He then adds two cups of coffee to conclude the demonstration and shares the message.
The jar represents your life. The golf balls are the most important things in your life – God, family, children, friends, health. The pebbles are other things of importance or value, but not to the level of priority of the golf balls: your house, your job, your car, your hobbies. The sand is both literally and figuratively the small stuff: the small stuff that we often fail to recognize as the stuff that fills our hours, our days, our lives, but has little real relevance to the fulfillment of our lives. The professor stated that if you put the golfs balls, the pebbles, and the sand into the jar in reverse order, the golf balls wouldn’t fit and the little things, the sand, would take precedence over the more meaningful priorities.
The coffee was a final touch: you always have time (room in the jar) for coffee with friends.
Think of this life analogy this Thanksgiving. Who are your “golf balls”? Have you told your golf balls of the importance and priority of their lives in your life? Don’t take it for granted that they know (and it shouldn’t be a once-a-year effort). Let your guard down. Be vulnerable. Put your trust and faith in the hands of those who are special to you. Your golf balls can be your oh-too familiar parents or siblings, long-time friends, or new-found loves. Let the people with whom you can be natural and comfortable know that they are special and tell them why. Don’t assume you have time.
One of my golf balls was my father. I last saw him on his 80th birthday in September 2015, right before my life changed with my journey to Fernandina Beach. In the chaos of the transition to this community, I was “too busy.” I didn’t see him again before he died in April 2016.
My other obvious golf balls are my mother, three daughters, a son-in-law, a son-in-law to be, and a grandson who turns 1 on Christmas Eve. My three siblings are other golf balls.
Because those “golf balls” live elsewhere, some of my “pebbles” are actually more like rocks: friends that have provided unwavering support during this past year of professional and personal successes and challenges. They know who they are because I remind them of their importance to me.
As I continue my service to this community, I add some pebbles, and anticipate that some of those pebbles will grow into rocks and some may even go through a remarkable transformation into a golf ball. Maybe my jar needs to be bigger.
The sand, however, will remain at the beach where it belongs and I’ll make time for coffee, too (and maybe some peanuts).