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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

How’s Your Bucket?

Heather Curlee-Novak

I’ve been struggling to find joy lately. I took the Facebook app off of my phone so I could control my exposure to…All The Things. I am staying engaged, I am in the resistance, but I need to keep myself balanced and encouraged.  I look for big ways to make an impact.  I am in groups and I am writing letters and I am making calls.  I marched in a local women’s march.  I am doing what I can to be positive but it is hard and I am often afraid.

Recently on the walk through our neighborhood to school, I was humbled and inspired by my seven year old daughter Portia.  She might pretend she is a ninja instead of unloading the dishwasher the fourth time I ask, but Man! She can deliver a sermon without preaching.

One of her friends, Isabel, was having a crummy day and it was affecting the mood of our little “walking school bus” enough that I just started walking way ahead with a few kids to avoid it all.  I saw that Portia lingered back with Isabel and her father, Lucas, who is one of my favorite people.  I kept going, not wanting to deal with the fray.  I was annoyed and dismissive.  Lucas came up to me and said “Portia is talking about Bucket filling?” I stopped still on the sidewalk.  Tears filled my eyes and I began to explain.

Not too long ago my family was in town to visit my Dad and we attended the Unitarian Church I grew up in.  The children’s moment there consisted of a dear lady named Cathy Duncan reading the book “Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids” By Carol McCloud.  The author talks about how everyone had a desire to be loved and appreciated and we carry around a ‘bucket’ of feelings.  When we make someone else feel good, we fill their “bucket”.  If we are unkind to someone we are dipping into their bucket and taking away their good feelings.  The book said some people try to fill their own bucket by taking from others, but it never, ever works well.  I find that many messages like this given to children are often even better aimed at adults. We need it more!

My daughters talked about being “bucketfillers” for weeks after they heard the story.  They looked for ways to help others, to apply the message.  I talked about it with my mentor and she gave me her copy of the book since her kids had outgrown it.  We thrilled together at the power of this positive concept.  I shared the book with my friend Karyn who leads our church’s Childrens’ Ministry and they liked the message so much they used the entire “Be a Bucketfiller” curriculum for weeks!  Many of us got our buckets filled by the kind words and actions of the kids learning to look for ways to fill other people’s buckets.

So back to the sidewalk.  There I was, supposedly every inch an adult, dismissing a little kid having a hard day.  I wanted to avoid the tantrum, their sad feelings, their littleness. I was guarding myself from it (and besides there was a parent there to deal with her).  My daughter did better.  My daughter engaged her friend with love, distracted her, told her about bucket filling.  As Portia’s kind and patient words lifted Isabel’s heart, I saw at once how effective this is.  We all started telling Isabel nice things about herself.  We told her what we admired.  We told her what we were proud of her for.  We all begin smiling.  We walked together and started telling the other kids in our group how they mattered, how they made us smile, how glad we were to know them. 

We were all lifted up, smiling, energized and full of joy.  Filling each other’s buckets filled our own lumpy and battered buckets.  A little child had to lead us, but she changed the course of our morning.  Instead of dismissing someone’s pain, she worked around it to fill a bucket and changed the world.  Her corner of it, anyway.

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