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The Red Marbles June 13, 2007

Posted by gregquill in Uncategorized.
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A very good friend sent me this story.  It’s as true as we want it to be, I think. 

There was a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily apprising a basket of freshly picked green peas at the corner grocer’s. I paid for my potatoes, and I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller (the store owner) and the ragged boy.

“Hello Barry, how are you today?”
“H’lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus’ admirin’ them peas. They sure look good.”
“They are good, Barry. How’s your Ma?”
“Fine. Gittin’ stronger alla’ time.”
“Good. Anything I can help you with?”
“No, Sir. Jus’ admirin’ them peas.”
“Would you like to take some home?” asked Mr. Miller.
“No, Sir. Got nuthin’ to pay for ’em with.”
“Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?”
“All I got’s my prize marble here.”
“Is that right? Let me see it” said Miller.
“Here ’tis. She’s a dandy.”
“I can see that. Hmmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?” asked Miller.
“Not zackley but almost.”
“Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble”, Mr. Miller told the boy.
“Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller.”

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said, “There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn’t like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, which they are to bring when they come on their next trip to the store.”

A short time later I moved to Colorado, but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys, and their bartering for marbles. Several years went by, each faster than the previous one.

Once, I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died.They were having his wake that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to go along. At the funeral home, we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could.

Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice dark suits and white shirts, and they all had fresh haircuts … all very professional looking. They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband’s casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hands in the casket. Each left the room awkwardly, wiping his eyes.

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and I reminded her of the story from those many years ago and what she had told me about her husband’s bartering for marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket.

“Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the thing s Jim “traded” them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size….they came to pay their debt.”

“We’ve never had a great deal of money,” she confided, “but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho.”

With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.

I guess it means:
• We are not going to be remembered by our words, but by our deeds.
• Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath.
• It’s not what you gather, but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you have lived

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Comments»

1. Brenda - June 13, 2007

You are not allowed to post any more stories that get me misty-eyed

2. Greg Finnegan - June 13, 2007

I know, Brenda; but it’s directed at the sensitive people like you, who can make a difference!

I think you’d also be surprised at the tenderness of one of our mutual friends!


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