Every class in my son’s elementary school read the same book last year: Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud.
Afterward, the children were each given a turn to write down an example of something to fill a bucket, then placed the paper in a friend’s plastic pail.
They learned how fulfilling it is to fill someone else’s metaphorical bucket with a kind word or gesture, and to be wary of bucket dipping.
This is the lesson we want teach to our children at very young ages: to be kind to others, to fill your friends’ buckets, and be aware of those who make you feel less than your best self.
In the past, my bucket was always in a state of flux – a cycle of getting filled and then getting dipped into until it was almost empty. All of that changed when I decided I needed really good friends. As a military spouse for the last 17 years, I thought it was easier not to put myself out there. Every couple years I was the new kid all over again. I wondered if I’d like my new community, if people would like me.
My misguided belief that making great friends would be super hard had me rooted in fear and kept me from engaging.
Then, after a long deployment in a new city with a 5-year-old glued to me at all times, my thinking shifted. It started out as a realization that I didn’t have any close friends nearby. Then it became a request: I want to have great friends, Universe! Send them my way!
Once the request was in, it was my responsibility to take action. I joined a mommy group, I started to go for coffee with some of my yoga students, and I even joined a military spouses’ club.
The Universe listened. I was surrounded with new friends…but some of them were not filling my bucket. I needed to make sure I made great friends, not just any friends. I have a scale from one to five that helps me listen to my gut when I’m meeting new people. This scale has helped me to only become friends with the people who will continue to fill my bucket. No bucket dippers allowed!
1 – Beware the Bucket Dipper Extraordinaire! I can’t stand this person (that’s a harsh thing for me to say; I even feel uncomfortable writing those words). This person epitomizes the old bumper sticker, “Mean People Suck.”
2 – Energy Vampire, anyone? This person may be nice, but they totally zap my energy, we just don’t jive. They are usually a major Debbie Downer, and I just feel bad being around them. No matter how much I try to build them up, it backfires on me, and I have to just move on.
3 – This person is a Neutral Friend. They don’t bother me and they don’t excite me.
4 – I like this person! I really do. Time spent with this person is pleasant and we have a few laughs. I truly enjoy their company; we’re filling each other’s buckets.
5 – Master Bucket Filler. I could hang out with this person all of the time. There’s usually a spark, an immediate connection to this new friend. They are authentic, they shine. We have each other’s back, we have fun together and are each other’s cheerleader. We can also tell each other uncomfortable truths in a loving way without feeling judged or judgmental.
When you’re meeting new people, pay attention to how someone makes you feel. Listen to your gut. When I put myself out there, I didn’t jive with every single person I met. But guess what? We live in an amazing world. We experience life and learn lessons from all types of people. I found amazing friends who will always be in my heart no matter where I live.
So surround yourself with as many Fives as you can find: people who are going to lift you up, see your truth, and love you for it. Fill your life with them. Not only are they filling your bucket, but you are filling theirs.
That feeling is even better.
Author: Katie Meuse
Assoc. Editor: Kendra Hackett / Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Hartwig HKD/Flickr
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