Happy New Year! May 2016 be a year in which you fill many buckets, and in which your own bucket is filled to overflowing!
“Wait, what’s all this talk about buckets?” you may be wondering. Well, one way of looking at how we treat others is to consider that everyone has an invisible bucket which holds their good feelings of love, peace, and joy. Every word we speak and every thing we do either helps to fill another person’s bucket or “dips” (removes) some good feeling like love, peace, or joy away from them. Whenever you do something to fill another’s bucket, your own bucket fills as well! (No surprises there! This concept is found in St. Luke’s Gospel: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.” Luke 6:38) Similarly, if you “dip” from someone else’s bucket, your own bucket becomes even emptier.
The bucket concept has been around for decades, but was brought to a child’s level by Carol McCloud, when she wrote the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids in 2006. Find the book here: http://www.bucketfillers101.com/have-you-filled-a-bucket-today.php. The book is instructional, but full of delightful illustrations that drive home points like this: “When you’re a bucket filler, you make your home, your school, and your neighborhood a better place to be!” Listen to the book, read aloud in its entirety, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGqyHoQZXuk.
There are many other books that can help children to learn about the concept of “bucket filling.” Consider reading one or more to your Sunday Church School students, and extend the challenge of bucket filling to them! Take for example the story How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath and Mary Rekmeyer. This book is the story of Felix, a boy who learns about bucket filling, tries it, and learns that one’s bucket can be emptied and refilled at points throughout a day, but that he prefers to have his bucket full! (He also learns that he enjoys filling the buckets of others.) Listen to someone read this book here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5R6-2m_qHk. This third book is my favorite: it caught my eye in the local public library long before I knew the others existed! It is called Will You Fill My Bucket? Daily Acts of Love Around the World, and is written by Penny Weber. This book allows the reader a glimpse into the lives of children around the world, and the opportunity to learn what it is that fills their bucket! (Not necessarily all the same things your child might expect or need…)
Here are additional links that can help you to teach your students more about bucket filling:
See an interview with Ms. McCloud about her book here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GOh18uZBlw.
Older students and adults will enjoy reading some of the psychology behind “bucket filling” and “bucket dipping” here: http://www.bucketfillers101.com/pdfs/Valusek.pdf.
Younger students may enjoy listening to the song “Fill Your Bucket” by The Learning Station here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaddbqEQ1NE
Find ideas from one teacher who uses “bucket filling” in her classroom here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rh7zqz0faZw
To help your students to actively begin to fill the buckets of those around them, you may want to check out this sampling of the free printables from the official “Bucket Fillers” website that can help us to become bucket fillers:
A coloring page for little folk: http://www.bucketfillers101.com/pdfs/ColoringPg1.pdf
A word search: http://www.bucketfillers101.com/pdfs/WordSearch.pdf
A Bucket-filling A to Z printable checklist: http://www.bucketfillers101.com/pdfs/A-ZCheck-ListBoxes.pdf
An end-of-day questionnaire: http://www.bucketfillers101.com/pdfs/JournalQues.pdf
Besides being a “bucket filler” in our own home/work/Church/community, each of us can also reach out to people we do NOT know, and help to fill their buckets, as well! We should be doing all of this already, because our Lord Himself instructed us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves! (Matthew 22:39) As this new year begins, let us resolve to become bucket fillers not only for those immediately around us, but for others who really need to have their bucket filled, whom we may never even meet! Here are a few groups that you and your students can help as they fill the buckets of other children. You may want to select a few of these organizations to introduce to your class, vote on which one to help, and decide how to work together to help then in their bucket filling.
Did you know that 1 in 30 American children will experience homelessness at some point in this year?!? Project Night Night is a non-profit organization that works with volunteers to provide nighttime comforts (a bedtime storybook, a stuffed animal, and a blanket; all in a sturdy tote bag) to homeless children in shelters all over the country. See http://www.projectnightnight.org/ to find more information and/or find out how you can be involved! Project Night Night is a hands-on way for our children to “fill some buckets” for kids whose buckets are surely empty!
Project Linus began when someone read an article about a young girl with leukemia whose special blankie helped her get through the treatments. The reader decided to begin supplying a local cancer treatment center with blankets for little patients, and the project was born! The purpose of the Linus Project is to supply new handmade blankets to sick or traumatized children throughout the United States. It also provides a way for creative individuals in the community to generously share their abilities! See https://www.projectlinus.org/ to learn how you can be involved. Author’s note: Our ladies’ group at church gathers to make blankets for this project, from time to time! Join us! Consider gathering a group to “fill some buckets” by making blankets. “National Make a Blanket Day” is always on the third Saturday of Feb., so this year it is on Feb. 20, 2016!
The International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is working with needy people all around the world. Watch this video to see what the IOCC is doing to help children in Syria: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cI7e0Tdm_eU Then prayerfully consider how you and your parish can generously help this important work! The children of Syria (and any other war-torn place) have buckets that must be nearly empty, and while we cannot be in their physical presence to refill those buckets, we can give to other Orthodox Christian groups such as the IOCC who can!
The International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) also gathers baby kits for families in emergency situations who have babies (http://iocc.org/kidspage/hearttoheart_baby1.aspx). They gather school kits to give to children in need (http://www.iocc.org/kidspage/schoolkit1.aspx). (The IOCC also gathers other types of kits for emergency situations. These kits are not necessarily geared to children. See http://iocc.org/kits.aspx for more details.) Assembling these kits can be a great way for your children and/or your parish to “fill a bucket” for someone in the world who truly needs to have something good ladled into their life.
Consider sponsoring one of the children at San Miguel Del Lago, a residence for children in need in Guatemala that is run by the nuns of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity. Visit http://www.hogarafaelayau.org/cms/ to find out more. (Author’s note: this is a personal favorite, as I was privileged to meet the mothers and children on a visit to Guatemala. The work that the nuns are doing is filling the empty buckets of these precious children every day!)
Other Orthodox Christian groups working specifically with children include:
The Saint Innocent Orphanage for boys in Mexico (http://www.projectmexico.org/orphanage/)
The Children’s Relief Fund which sponsors needy children in Lebanon and Palestine (http://www.projectmexico.org/orphanage/)
All of our Orthodox Christian Summer Camp Programs (for example, the Antiochian Village: https://avcamp.org/choose-donation-type/)
The Treehouse in Wichita, KS, is an Orthodox Christian organization that works with new mothers and their children who need basic necessities, education, personal care, and Christ’s love. (http://wichitatreehouse.org/make-a-donation/)
What ideas do you have for bucket filling? How will you and your Sunday Church School students help those around you (and those far away from you) who are in need, in this new year? May God richly bless you, generously filling your bucket, as you do so!