“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”
– Maya Angelou
At a recent staff meeting at my school, the hot topic was social emotional learning (SEL). We specifically learned and practiced a tool to positively add to others’ lives.
It was the Bucket Filler.
As the story relates, “Everyone carries an invisible bucket … It’s purpose is to hold your good thoughts and good feelings about yourself.”
Adults may call their bucket an emotional bank account, with deposits and withdrawals. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe that’s just corporate lingo.
We may not have a name for it, but good and bad vibes are certainly felt, as in Maya Angelou’s wise words: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Whatever we call it, we can ask ourselves and our kids: How did you fill someone’s bucket?
Or How were you a helper today?
Or How did you make the world a better place today?
The language changes, but the message remains: How are you taking care of others? How are you adding to another person’s happiness?
As adults, we may ask: How are you making someone’s life a little less difficult? How are you lessening their load?
At school, teachers often have bucket-filling lessons to create community in the classroom.
Veronica wrote this in Kindergarten:
(It reads: I filled my sister’s bucket today because I said good morning).
At our meeting, a co-worker walked around with a bucket that contained slips of paper with teachers’ names. At our turn, we drew a name. Our action item was to write a note as to why that person matters to us.
The notes were posted in our faculty lounge and it was a treat to read what my co-workers thought mattered about each other.
Here’s what my co-worker wrote about me :
(It reads: You matter because Green Bay Packer fans are few and far between around here. It is nice to have someone to talk to about the season’s ups and downs.)
I smiled huge when I read it. We’ve got a Green Bay thing. It felt good and filled my bucket to have someone say something affirming about why I matter, why he likes me around. But you know what else? It was quite bucket filling to write my friend’s card and even read the other cards.
What Can You Do TODAY to Fill Someone’s Bucket?
- Send a card or a love note for a reason – or for no reason at all.
- Sincerely compliment someone or offer a kind word.
- Share. Kids are asked to share toys, but as adults it’s usually time, energy, and knowledge.
- Listen with an open heart – seeking first to understand.
- Give a hug.
- Smile. It’s free. Or a nod to the stranger when you’re waiting at a stop light.
- Say “I Love You.”
- Greet someone with “Good morning” – and add their name if you can.
- Notice someone in need and offer a helping hand.
- Spend time with someone who matters to you. Sometimes it’s 10 more minutes than you “have,” but really to the person who matters, well … this time, this time is what matters.
- Ask “how are you doing?” and really wait for the response versus the “how are you?”… “good” … “good” and bye.
- Leave someone with a “have a fun day.”
- Say “yes, please” and “thank you.”
Some on the list are one size fits all – strangers included – and some we may only reserve for those closest to us.
Recently I received a loving card in the mail from one of my besties – and it lifted my day. I thought, wow, she thought enough of our friendship to just send me a card to say that she was happy we are friends.
I keep this i.love.you. heart in my wallet.
Veronica, my oldest, wrote it when she was in Kindergarten. It’s tattered and a bit stained, but it warms my core when I glimpse it hidden between my receipts.
I’m sure we could spend ample time on dippers – you know, the hurtful aspects that drain ourselves and others.
It’s likely you’re aware of how you dip into others’ buckets. Is it interrupting, pointing out something wrong with someone in a hurtful way, fighting, arguing, being an asshole? … if you ask the hard questions of yourself, you will know what you need to work on.
My personal challenge, which is a dip, is hurrying.
It’s not that I’m in a hurry to get through life. I know what matters. I savor the journey, I do. But by hurrying I mean, I have to work to not feel annoyed when life is not moving as quickly as my speed or my agenda. I really have to be intentional about slowing down. I’ve made leaps in this category, but I still have work to do.
I’m not keen to admit this, but here’s what I found while rummaging through a stack of papers last weekend:
(It reads: One day, Veronica went to the park and she saw a flower and she picked it. Her mom said, “Come on, let’s go!”)
Veronica’s preschool teacher wrote what Veronica expressed. This was three years ago … I know I’ve grown and worked on this over the last three years. But there’s the little voice in me (I don’t love this!) that still feels pressure to move fast. It’s the voice I’m consistently ssshing.
But enough about dipping and back to filling.
The more that we fill someone else’s bucket, the fuller our own bucket becomes. And the thing about our buckets is, the fuller they are, the more we are able to share ourselves and the love we have with others.
With this in mind, let’s work to add simple kindness into the world every day in any way we can. As quoted, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
I think it’s fair to believe that you can sense when a bucket is in need of a fill, right?