Special to 0-A News
from Walter Albritton, Senior Paster Trinity UMC
for Sunday, September 12, 1999


Juggling priorities necessary for balance in life

Overload - the disease of the nineties for which many of us are seeking a cure. We did not mean for it to happen, but it did. We stretched ourselves like a rubber band trying to wrap ourselves around so many good things that our wagon got too full.
Pain, pressure, frustration- these unwelcome neighbors moved into our lives, pushing us to the breaking point. Emotionally drained, we want somebody to listen to us cry, scream, or shout, "Stop the world! I want to get off!"
What we really want is not a way out, but a healthy life filled with contentment, simplicity, and balance. We get sick of being stressed out, hurrying all the time, tired to the bone, and worried about everything under the sun. We want someone to lead us out of the jungle of stress, fatigue, and anxiety.
One solid answer was offered recently by the CEO of Coca Cola Enterprises, Brian Dyson. Speaking to university graduates at commencement excercises, Dyson talked about the difficulty of juggling priorities.
He invited the graduates to imagine life as a game in which they are juggling five balls in the air - work, family, health, friends, and spirit. It's hard work, he said, to keep all of these balls in the air at the same time.
Dyson invited his audience to understand that work is a rubber ball. When you drop it, it will bounce back. But, he said, "the other four balls- family, health, friends, and spirit- are made of glass."
Drop one of them and "they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same."
Even Pepsi lovers will agree with the Coke executive's wisdom. Work makes a poor god; worship it and you miss the true joy of living. There are some things that are simply more important than work - the other four balls that Dyson insists tend to be broken or damaged when dropped.
If our goal is balance in life, we must learn to treat family, health, friends, and spirit as balls, or priorities, made of glass. Of them we must be willing to say, "Fragile: handle with care."
Brian Dyson may have read with profit the excellent book, Margins, by medical doctor Richard A. Swenson. In his book Swenson offers a prescription for overloaded lives which he calls "margin."
"Overload," Swenson says, "is not having time to finish the book you're reading on stress. Margin is having time to read it twice." What we need, he says, is to stop pushing ourselves beyond our limits so we can gain margins of energy reserved for the the unexpected demands of life.
As we face the continuing challenge of juggling our priorities every day, listening to people like Dyson and Swenson can help. Here is my attempt to merge their advice into a sentence to remember:
"If you expect to solve the problem of overload, be careful not to drop the glass balls!"