An interesting lesson-story gets passed down from generation to generation in some families. I’ve heard this story from my friends with some variation, but for some reason in the accounts, it’s consistently the father who is the main hero who demonstrates this phenomenon. Here are the two main versions I know:

Pebbles Rocks & Pebbles. The father with his little daughter is on the beach with some pail, and the father shows his little girl that she can pour a lot of pebbles into the small pail, and then when she tries to add large rocks, they don’t fit…. BUT if you take those same pebbles and set them aside and if you add large rocks to the pail first, and then pour the pebbles in between the large rocks, then both the rocks and the pebbles will fit.

And then the father says to his little girl, “See, it’s just like this – if you put in the important things in life first (laughing with mom and me, doing your homework, visiting grandma and grandpa), then the little things will all fit, and if you put in the little things in your life first, then the lrage rocks just won’t have any space.”

Walnuts & Rice. I always imagine this version of the story happening in the fall (around Thanksgiving or the winter school break). And I always imagine the father wandering into the kitchen while the child is playing with cooking ingredients on the kitchen table. And I always imagine a measuring cup, some unshelled walnuts on the table, and some rice in a pile. I imagine the father filling the rice to almost-full in the measuring cup, and then attemping to pour the walnuts in as well. Walnuts
And then I imagine the child saying, “Oh, no, dad, that’s silly. Try it the other way!” And then the walnuts go in first, and after that the rice. And then the father says to the child, “the walnuts are like the people you love
your mom, your brother and me
and the rice is all the things in life
that we all think we need

The above are lyrics from Kevin Briody. The words are from his song “Walnuts and Rice,” which I heard him perform once live, and it was great. Kevin Briody (rhymes with “sobriety”) is a singer-songwriter, and if you like it, you should catch him performing sometime. Another excerpt from Walnuts and Rice:

He took one handful of walnuts
and one handful of rice
you see my dad he had a funny way
of handing out advice
first he poured the rice in
this empty candy jar
but when he poured the walnuts in
they spilled down to the floor

He said, “the walnuts are like the people you love
your mom, your brother and me
and the rice is all the things in life
that we all think we need
how we fill this empty jar
is how we live our lives
first things first, there’s room for both
walnuts and rice”

Well i looked at him all confused
and he looked at me all content
as the smile grew across his face
i asked him what he meant
then he emptied out that jar
but before he put it back
this time he poured the nuts in first
and the rice filled in the cracks

Note: Written on 11-16 and posted for 11-15 to precede quote Thursday.


  1. Posted Thursday November 16, 2006 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Very nice! I have trouble telling the walnuts from the rice sometimes though! I guess if it has a hard shell for a head that’s tough to crack but ultimately rewarding, that is a nut, and probably someone I love :-) I imagined just now a lot of different nuts: chestnuts, walnuts, acorns, brazil nuts, peanuts (that aren’t nuts!) and hazelnuts, all jumbled together. It was a nice image…I wonder how the father would deal with all those nuts?

  2. Posted Friday November 17, 2006 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Very nice story…I love the pictures!

  3. Posted Saturday November 18, 2006 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    Hi Dave, Hi Alvaro…

    Dave – it is sometimes hard… I think that’s why folks tell these stories…. prioritizing is so important in order to succeed, right? It seems that may be one of the happinesses you got in that time that your dad was visiting (prioritizing family and family closeness), as you wrote in your blog recently. S.

    Alvaro, merci! Been enjoying your site tons lately, S.

4 Trackbacks

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