When you're a bucket-filler, you make the world a better place! Using a simple metaphor of a bucket and a dipper, author Carol McCloud illustrates in her book “Have You Filled A Bucket Today?” that when we choose to be kind, we not only fill the buckets of those around us, but also fill our own bucket!
Sometimes we forget this in our family relationships, at work and in the hectic pace of life. Living within a snow globe of swirling responsibilities, demands, checklists and choices is stressful. It enriches our lives to stop and remember that life is a journey--not a race, a destination or a competition-but a beautiful journey to be walked, danced and enjoyed with those we care most about.
We are not meant to merely survive, endure get through each day but to enjoy and revel in our meaningful relationships. The world is changed by our example, not our opinion or words but how we live our lives!
So, this week, I challenge you to take time to let the snow globe settle. Make time to ask your daughter to tell you about her best friends at school and be present to her while she talks. Take your son to the hardware store and ask him to help with a project around the house. Cook dinner together. Go for a walk as a family. Use a mealtime to talk about favorite family vacations. Call your child that is away at college. Make a lunch date for the next time they will be home. Write a text or mail a card to your adult children just to say you are thinking of them. Visit or call your parents or grandparents.
Read “Have You Filled A Bucket Today?” www.amazon.com/Have-Filled-Bucket-Today-Bucketfilling/dp/099609993X and talk about ways your family can practice kindness in your neighborhood. Watch the YouTube video “Grateful: A Love Song to the World” together. www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO2o98Zpzg8 Challenge your family members to find other inspirational videos and Ted Talks to share with the family.
Buckminster Fuller, 20th century architect, inventor and visionary dedicated his life to making the world work for all of humanity. He said, "In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete. That, in essence, is the higher service to which we are all being called."
We all can create amazing experiences, connections, and memories in our families and in the process, we heal ourselves and influence those around us.
All of us know that our life on this physical plane is finite and we don't clearly know when family and friends will draw their last breath. For some, it is sudden--without any heads up--and often, it is too soon. For others, death comes at the end of a life well-lived filled with many memories. As I am writing this blog, my father's life has just ended, and I am looking at ways to say goodbye.
My sisters and I had the luxury of knowing that the end was near so we could plan some final moments together with our dad and mom. At the end of May, we gathered in the assisted living where my parents reside and spent time together. We talked about shared memories and listened to our dad's end of life requests. We celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary with ice cream drumsticks--their request. And my youngest sister organized timeslots on zoom for family and friends to connect with my dad, sharing memories and saying goodbye.
I will be spending the next week together with my mom, offering support, sharing memories, prayers, and songs. Even though we all know that death is inevitable, we don't know enough about what to do at the end. Even those who work in hospice care have difficulty finding ways to say goodbye to loved ones. I pray that I can bring peace and support to my mom.
This month, I find myself embracing both ends of the lifecycle with the birth of my second grandchild and the end of the physical life of my dad. The photos above are part of my many memories of him. If you have parents or grandparents who are still living, I encourage you to take the opportunity to talk with them about their lives, the most important memories, their regrets, their accomplishments, and their end-of-life desires. I have listed a few resources below that I have found meaningful.
What I wrote a few years ago for Father's Day
Helping children deal with death:
Grief One Day at a Time: 365 Meditations to Help You Heal After Loss
Are you aware that children who know details about their family history--where their parents and grandparents grew up, how they overcame difficulties, what their hopes and dreams were as a child or teenager, where certain family traditions came from, how their parents and grandparents met, what their first car or house was like--are emotionally healthier and happier? Dr. Marshall Duke and Dr. Robyn Fivush developed the “Do You Know…?” scale, sometimes called “The 20 Questions,” that tap into different kinds of family stories. The questions were designed as a starting point for sharing family stories and the result was that knowing about one's family history gave rootedness in something bigger than themselves. The process of families sharing stories about their lives provides bedrock upon which to build our own future. The links at the bottom of this blog give more details about the research.
As a child, I remember visiting my mother's parents in Doylestown, PA where my grandfather had a shoe store. My mother told me that in the beginning, my grandfather would buy shoes in Philadelphia and sell them out of the trunk of his car before he opened a store. I was impressed with his entrepreneurship! My father, as the youngest of ten children, became his family's historian and has authored several books that provide a rich history of where I come from. As a teenager, I enjoyed wearing bib overalls, much to the amusement of my father. I learned that he was eager to put wearing bib overalls behind him when he entered high school. As the youngest son of a farmer, it was a practical thing to wear and often, the clothes were handed down because times were hard during WW2.
Whether you are a parent or a grandparent or even a beloved uncle or aunt, the children in your lives need to hear stories of where they came from. Below are some questions to get you started in the family tradition of telling your stories.
Dr. Marshall Duke at Emory University: www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jE_oaW-ezc
Dr. Robyn Fivush: www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-stories-our-lives/201611/the-do-you-know-20-questions-about-family-stories
There are many ways to do this that do not involve dinner. Be creative and rethink the ritual!
In The Secrets of Happy Families, author Bruce Feiler shares a very cool “10-50-1 formula” for improving your family meals. Here is what it means:
According to the most recent market research to sharpen your brain, we should be taking fish oil supplements, use turmeric, do exercise and puzzle books and invest in a language course. But SURPRISE—the easiest, cheapest and most time-tested method is…READING! It’s almost summer and any teacher will tell you that summer reading is critical for students to retain knowledge and skills learned in the previous school year. Students who don't read are at risk of falling behind their classmates. Parents and teachers can avoid this by making sure kids take time to read. Need some suggestions on how to help this to happen? Keep reading.
The very nature of reading encourages the brain to work harder and better. “Typically, when you read, you have more time to think,” says Maryanne Wolf, EDD, director of the UCLA Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice. “Reading gives you a unique pause button for comprehension and insight. By and large, with oral language— when you watch a film or listen to a tape—you don’t press pause.”
What if you are (or someone you know is) a poor, or even a dyslexic, reader who feels as if you’ll never be able to read enough to reap these benefits? A book can fix that problem too! Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University studied children ages eight to ten who were below-average readers. One hundred hours of remedial reading classes significantly improved the quality of their brains’ white matter—the tissue that carries signals between areas of gray matter, where information is processed. The researchers’ conclusion: The brains of these children had begun to rewire themselves in ways that could benefit the entire brain, not only the reading-centric temporal cortex. (Reader’s Digest, March 2019)
So, what can you do as a parent to encourage reading in your home?
“Reading fiction not only develops our imagination and creativity, it gives us the skills to be alone. It gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we've never met, living lives we couldn't possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character's skin.” Ann Patchett