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Box of Rocks

mentor motivation Jun 23, 2019

By Karen Eden


I’ll never forget this story that my former brother-in-law Gary shared with me. He was on his first voyage overseas in the Navy, and couldn’t wait to debark with his friends onto the shores of a Caribbean island.

            It seems the island was all set up to receive the sailors, too. It had everything a lonely boy far from home would find intriguing, including rock-bottom prices on otherwise rather expensive merchandise. One in particular caught his eye.

            “I couldn’t believe the deal I was getting,” my brother-in-law told us.

Posted right outside the door was a sign that read: “Stereo system on sale for $100.” Knowing that the same stereo system back in the states would cost four times that amount, he went in to check out the deal.

Evidently, it was a state-of-the-art system complete with everything he wanted in his personal sound system. He quickly grabbed it and gave the merchant $100.

            Soon, the store clerk came out with the stereo system all taped up and secure so the boat ride home would not damage it.

“It might be a pain to carry back to the boat, but it will be worth it,” he thought to himself.

            A few weeks later, the battleship was back safely in harbor, Gary carried the very heavy box back to the base in anticipation of setting up his brand-new stereo system. This would certainly bring him and his shipmates a lot of joy while stationed ashore!

Well, it did bring everyone else joy – but not in the way he had intended! As he tells it, his purchase brought the house down laughing. Evidently, my dear brother-in-law had purchased and carried a full box of rocks back to the States!

“I opened the box and couldn’t believe it!” he declared, with a look of sheer disgust on his face.

It’s a story that still makes me laugh today as I write this.

            It’s also a story with a valuable lesson. For us, it might not be a literal box of rocks, but we have all experienced our share of being “had.” It’s usually the deals that are too good to be true that get us — just like our mothers warned us.

            I once bought a “designer purse” that fell apart during a job interview. I had to resort to borrowing the receptionist’s stapler and stapling the darn thing back together just to make it home with the contents intact. That purse wasn’t cheap, just cheaper. But that purse, too, was a costly lesson that will always remind me that ignorance can be more expensive in the long run.

            I was once told by a parent that his bullied child wouldn’t sign up with me for karate lessons because they could do it cheaper by buying instructional DVDs online.

“Go ahead,” I said. Then, I thought to myself, smiling, “Buy your expensive box of rocks.”

            A few months later, that same parent came back, asking to sign up his now-even-more-bullied son.

As I pulled out the paperwork, I had to ask, “What happened?”

“Oh, don’t even ask. Just tell me how much it’s going to cost,” he replied impatiently.

            He didn’t have to tell me; I already knew. And I’m sure that box of rocks was heavier than the one my brother-in-law had to carry back to the ship. It was probably more embarrassing for him to come back in here than it was for me to see my purse spill out its contents onto the floor while I was at that job interview.

            The young man who was being bullied went on to become one of my best black belts. His dad never again tried to negotiate a “better deal” with me, either.

And just for the record, I was never mad. I know that sometimes we all have to learn these things the hard way, knowing that money doesn’t grow on trees. It’s true: Good education is expensive, but being ignorant is even more expensive.


You can contact Master Karen Eden at [email protected]

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