Once upon a time someone sent me this story entitled Red Marbles.
I was at the corner grocery store buying some early potatoes. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily appraising a basket of freshly picked green peas. I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller (the store owner) and the ragged boy next to me.
“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 all’ 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. Hmmmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?” the store owner asked.
“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 love 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, when they come on their next trip to the store.”
I left the store smiling to myself, impressed with this man. 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 later Mr. Miller died and I accompanied friends to his visitation. Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice suits and white shirts…all very professional looking. They approached Mrs. Miller, hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her, and moved to the casket.
Each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes.
Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I reminded her of the story from those many years ago about her husband bartering for marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and let 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 things Jim “traded’ them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size…they came to pay their debt.”
With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.
The moral: We will not be remembered by our words, but by our kind deeds. Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath…