The first time that I’d ever head of a “bucket list” was when the movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman came out in 2007. I was kind of hesitant to see the movie (usually I really like Jack Nicholson, but sometimes he can be kind of crass), but I ended up giving in and rented it. So glad I did. The movie had a really great message, and I really liked the ending where Nicholson’s character kisses his little granddaughter, who he has never seen before, and was finally able to check off the “kiss the most beautiful girl in the world” item. I think what really touched me about that scene was how his perspective had changed from the time that he first found out that he didn’t have much longer to live. That “beautiful” girl no longer had to be an actress or a Playboy centerfold model. He recognized that life wasn’t always about the glitz, glamour, and fame. Additionally, it showed that some of life’s most precious and most important things are right in front of us, and because we’re always setting our sights on something bigger, grander or more exotic, we miss what counts the most.
Now, back to the whole premise of the movie. The bucket list. While I’d never heard of the term, I was familiar with what it stood for. I’ve always had my mental “bucket list,” but I never called it that. The items on it are/were simply my goals in life. Now I refer to it as my bucket list – simply because that’s currently the buzz phrase – but I think that that title is actually a misnomer. Why? Because it focuses on what we should or want to do before the end of our lives, aka “kick the bucket” – hence the presence of the word “bucket.” But when you think about it, isn’t that kind of sad and morbid? Seriously. Think of the image. When you literally kick a bucket, it’s contents spill out and you make a mess. Or, if it’s empty it makes a pitiful, hollow clank as it bounces on the ground after your foot connects with it.
Isn’t one of the whole purposes of life to have a fulfilled and happy one? So transferring the literal imagery I just used to the metaphorical naming of one’s list of life’s goals, why in the world would you want to kick the bucket at the very end? Because then all of what you worked for spills all over, makes a mess, and if what it contains happens to be a “liquid,” then it’s completely irretrievable. Conversely, if we only focus on the “things” of life, we’re really missing out on the whole reason we’re here. Pretty soon the things aren’t enough, and we become dissatisfied of the wonderful people, events, times that we’ve been blessed with, because we think they don’t match up to what someone else has accomplished in their life. If we get caught in that trap we perpetually look at our bucket as empty and make ourselves miserable trying to “fill” it up.
Some of you are saying, “Yeah, but Lark, that’s the whole point. You fill the bucket [life] up.”
And I’d reply, “Yeah, I know. But the phrase under fire here is stupid. It’s connotation in this whole “bucket list” craze is completely messed up. We all know that the original figure of speech destines the bucket to be kicked over and EMPTY in the end. A tipped-over bucket cannot be full. It’s physically impossible for it to be otherwise. And we need stop thinking that we (or our lives) aren’t as good as someone else’s.”
What’s my point? My point is 1) we should get out of the habit of calling our list of goals by that name, 2) that death isn’t the end of life so 3) if we “miss” an item, we shouldn’t feel that our life isn’t as meaningful as it *could* be, 4) why are we only focusing on one bucket filled with “things” anyway?
I think it would be much more accurate to look at each of our goals as individual buckets that are filled with life-giving water. That means that we turn today’s catch-phrase on it’s ear: the bucket is not the object of focus, nor the destination, nor or the final recipient. Rather, the bucket/goal is a tool which transports the lesson and experience [the water] from its source and enables us to more easily internalize it. Because truly, life is a gift from our Father in Heaven and is made possible by Jesus Christ. So the water comes from Him and – I’m fully convinced of this – He inspires us to choose certain goals. And hopefully as we live, we become a little better, more kind, more gentle, more loving, generous, understanding, a more Christ-like person. Therefore when we internalize the water – which we drew with the buckets – we fill and change ourselves. More simply, we – our characters – are the object of focus.
So, when we view our list of goals in this light, do we see some specific items that need to be modified? I know I do. That’s not to say that our goals should only be religiously based. That would be silly, and I don’t think God would want it that way. But the question remains: do our goals really make us more like our Savior? Are those top 5 (or 10 or 20) items really that important, or are they only there because lots of other people have that on their list? Will the goals really bring our families lasting happiness? Chances are that they’re worthy goals, but are we “looking beyond the mark”? By that I mean can we accomplish the main objective of a particular goal in another – and maybe better – way than what we have listed? When truly evaluated, are they distracting us from what God really wants us to to do? Are we missing the wonderful things that are right in front of us?
We should – by all means – dream, plan, work, and accomplish wonderful things. We’ve been destined to do so. But let us make sure that we’re doing it in the right way, in the right time, and with approval of Him who knows what’s best for our well-being. Let us not focus on the buckets, but what they contain – and let’s make sure they contain what’s most important.
Do I have a bucket list? Yep, I do. But I’d rather have a list of buckets that reminds me of what I want to become and not solely of what I want to do. Guess I better get crackin’!