Archive | March, 2011

The importance of filling your bucket

9 Mar

My identical twin daughters turned five years old on Sunday and I’m sitting here wondering how on earth that happened?

It really was just yesterday that they appeared surgically, as bundled up baby rats in the operating theatre. I know – comparing them to vermin is pretty harsh, right?  It’s just that they were super tiny, with little body-fat and skin that was transparent in certain areas. They looked like they needed more time before they could be considered ‘fully cooked’ and yet, at 38 weeks, they were apparently perfectly Al dente – just slightly scrawny.

Still…I learned to love them, feed them and teach them cool stuff and now…. they are five.  

The twins recently started attending prep year at school and after a somewhat shaky start, have been making friends, learning new skills and becoming more independent.  It’s an observation that, for me, is both encouraging and alarming.

One day last week they had their first encounter with a substitute teacher and when hubby and I picked them up after school, she approached us and said:

“These are your girls?  They were wonderful today.  You’re very lucky. You won’t have any problems with these two.  I see many happy years ahead in the future – for all of you”

With her tight braids, chocolate-brown shiny skin, and commanding voice – she reminded me of Mama Odie from “The Princess and a Frog”.  Yes, it is sad that I now use Disney Princess movies as frames of reference, but I’m telling you there was something majestic and magical about her!    

Of course, her kind words mirrored back what I often think to myself anyway. I love my girls and am the same as any other parent who thinks their children are special and fabulous and every other adjective likened to wonderful.   But when a virtual stranger affirms these biased thoughts, it is very edifying.

The substitute teacher may have already forgotten that she offered these words of acknowledgement, but I carried them round for several days like precious stones in my pocket.  Those words, I will never forget.

Then, a few days ago, I received a profound and heart-felt email from a friend, thanking me for my support during a particularly dark time in their lives.  He noted that while I must already know how much it had meant to him, he wanted to remind, and thank me again.

Funnily enough, until that exact moment, I did not know for certain, how significant my actions had been.   Sure, I believed our friendship was real and meaningful, but we haven’t seen each other in many years and recent contact has been sporadic.  I was unsure if the value of our friendship and esteem was felt on a mutual level and to have that confirmed, was both reassuring and touching.

On both aforementioned occasions, the emotional impact of words was considerable. I felt acknowledged and assured that my actions mattered – that I mattered. I also noticed that for the rest of the day, my general demeanour was lighter and brighter!

It made me think – How often do we hold back from offering words of acknowledgement or thanks to the people we share this planet with?   How many times have I failed to thank, or taken for granted, my friends, family and connections?  More than I would like to admit.

In 2004, Donald Clifton and Tom Rath published a book titled “How full is your bucket”.

Based on more than 50 years of research in the area of Positive Psychology, they employed a simple metaphor of a bucket and dipper to explain how our daily interactions either improve or diminish other people’s lives.  The basic premise is that saying something positive to another person can fill someones ‘bucket’, resulting in renewed energy and a positive outlook for both parties.  Conversely, negative comments undermine, sap energy and lower the levels in our emotional buckets. 

The book effectively illustrates the important choice we are faced with every day – to fill someone’s bucket with positive words or say and do things that dip from another’s bucket, thereby diminishing their lives and our own. 

My thought is this…let people know that they matter, remind them of their good points, thank them for their efforts; acknowledge them for their time.   Our connections and relationships have the power to join hearts, minds and countries together in a collective consciousness of unity.

I can’t tell you how much my heart leapt with love and pride when that teacher took the time to acknowledge my girls.  Similarly, when my friend contacted me, it really bought home how a small display of gratitude and affection can effectively impact someone’s day from miles away.

My little girls are now one year older. They are far from being babies or even toddlers and are old enough to remember every sentiment that falls carelessly from my mouth.  I intend on ensuring, every day, that they will also be showered with love, smiles and affirmations. 

They may not listen to me as much as I would like, but I figure that if I make more time to fill the emotional reservoirs of others, they will learn by modelling and become fabulous bucket-fillers by the time they reach adulthood.

Happy Birthday beautiful girls!

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