A few weeks ago, I was at my local recycling center. I keep all my paper in a basic mop bucket. Usually it works well, I hold it by the handle, turn it upside down, and the paper falls in the bin.
But it was after Christmas, and I had been weeding through all my 2018 papers. So the bucket was full. When I started to throw out my papers, some got stuck, and I as tried to finagle them, I lost my grip on the handle. My bucket fell into the bin.
I reached in. The bucket was just out of reach. I tried to lift myself up to see if I could just manage to grab that handle. But then I remembered a story a colleague told me: A woman once fell into a charity bin and died. I was not worried about dying from exposure. Even as I was doing a sad sort of gymnastics trying to reach my bucket, other people were pulling up to recycle. But I would prefer not to be the subject of my neighborhood’s Facebook page.
It seemed that I had no other option than to leave and stop by the dollar store and buy a new bucket. That was not upsetting, but I hated the thought of the entire bin being rejected because of my plastic bucket. I got back in my car and spied my trusty umbrella. I returned to the bin.
I stuck the umbrella into the bin and managed to hook the handle. The bucket still had a lot of paper in it and wouldn’t lift. But I could knock it around enough so that some of the papers came out. And then I was able to pull the bucket out of the bin.
I have to admit that I was pleased way out of proportion to what I actually accomplished. But this is something that I am constantly working on: solving a problem that comes my way instead of moaning and giving up.
Things I learned from this experience:
- Always keep an umbrella in the car.
- I really have to work on my upper-body strength.
- A little thought is often all that is needed when faced with a problem.
It has been a hard eighteen months for some of us at our college. Four of our current and former colleagues have died, two of complications from advanced dementia, one from a quick but vicious cancer, and one from a totally unexpected moment during what should have been a routine surgery. I suppose that the death of a friend always causes some soul searching, reminding one that life is short and should not be wasted.
It would be presumptuous to think I might know if my friends and colleagues had achieved their goals in life. I’m pretty sure that they wanted to have more good years left, to spend time with their families, read good books, and laugh with friends. I think most felt they still had contributions to make to the world. But I also think that they made pretty good use of the time they had.
Still I thought of them when I saw a post on Facebook; it was close to New Year’s when people tend to share optimistic and motivating ideas for the coming year. This one, which I liked and then promptly lost track of, said something along the lines to make sure that you do something on your bucket list every day.
This made a lot of sense to me. Bucket lists are often made up of big items. (Trips seem to be a popular item.) And there is nothing wrong with having big goals and dreams. But while we’re waiting for big things to happen, a lot of life can go by.
So think of the things that you want to do while you are still alive and still healthy enough. And then think about how you can make them into daily activities. Maybe you can’t go on a trip today. But you can make sure that your passport isn’t expired, you can put a few dollars to your trip fund, or you can jot down the places you want to go.
Maybe your bucket list includes leaving money for a charity in your will. That’s great. But go ahead and give away a little money today. Take advantage of that impulse to help someone now.
Life is indeed short. And plans can go awry. And that’s why we need to keep our eyes on them and do a little something to make sure our lives are happy and meaningful each and every day.