Ten Thousand Jars Of Sawdust

photography by dan james
photography by dan james

What are you gathering, as you move through each day?

A story of two boys, and what they gathered…

From a very young age, Matthew was given an empty jar each day by his parents, to fill as he saw fit.

His twin brother, Michael, was given the same.

Each evening, before bed, the boys would hand their jars to their father, who would take them and put them “somewhere safe”.

And so the daily jar ritual continued, as the boys grew through childhood and into their adult years.

Years later, on their 35th birthday, Matthew and Michael’s father took them down the end of the garden to the outbuilding he had constructed a few months before the boys were born.

He told his sons he had something important to show them, and before he opened the door, asked Matthew to look to the right wall, and Michael to the left.

The door creaked open, and Michael looked eagerly left, Matthew craning his neck to the right.

On the left were Michael’s jars – the ones he’d handed his father at the end of each day for decades.

Yet each one was filled almost entirely with sawdust.

Michael had spent his life on activities that meant little to him, but that he felt pleased others, and were what other people expected of him.

He’d never taken the time to find what really mattered to him, what he truly valued.

So all he had to show for his life were thousands of jars of sawdust.

Matthew had taken a very different path.

He had remained focused on what made him feel alight and alive, and pursued his deepest passions.

Along the way, he’d inspired hundreds of others, simply by showing up with dedication to what was true and vital to him.

And so, Matthew’s wall was lined with jars crammed almost to the brim with gold dust.

Looking back across their collections of jars – the stories of their lives – the brothers had very different feelings about all they’d done, and how wisely they’d used their time.

Every day we have a choice, just like Matthew and Michael did.

We can fill our jar with gold dust – the pursuits and passions that makes us most alight and alive.

Or instead, fill it with the meaningless and mundane, our second guessed expectations of what other people want us to be, never listening to what’s inside us, bursting to be unleashed, and with the potential to inspire untold others.

Which did you choose yesterday – sawdust, or gold dust?

Far more importantly, what are you going to choose to fill your jar with today, tomorrow, and the remaining days of your life?

Join the conversation in our community to tell us about your jars…


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