Last week in my State of the Parish talk I mentioned the key factor in keeping our parish healthy: a positive attitude and conversation, with every parishioner having a part to play. I quoted this passage from the book How Full Is Your Bucket as a way to explain:
The Theory of the Dipper and the Bucket
Each of us has an invisible bucket. It is constantly emptied or filled, depending on what others say or do to us. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it’s empty, we feel awful.
Each of us also has an invisible dipper. When we use that dipper to fill other people’s buckets – by saying or doing things to increase their positive emotions – we also fill our own bucket. But when we use that dipper to dip from others’ buckets – by saying or doing things that decrease their positive emotions – we diminish ourselves.
Like the cup that runneth over, a full bucket give us a positive outlook and renewed energy. Every drop in that bucket makes us stronger and more optimistic.
But an empty bucket poisons our outlook, saps our energy, and undermines our will. That’s why every time someone dips from out bucket, it hurts us.
So we face a choice every moment of every day: We can fill one another’s buckets, or we can dip from them. It’s an important choice – one that profoundly influences our relationships, productivity, health, and happiness.
– Tom Rath and Donald M. Clifton, How Full Is Your Bucket? NY: Gallup Press, 2004, p. 15
This is deceptively simple, but has a lot of religious depth. At the Eucharist we celebrate an exchange of gifts: God gives us food and drink from nature’s bounty; we return some – the bread and wine – in the presentation of the gifts; in return again, God gives us His Son in the Holy Communion; we then give away to others in words and actions the new life God has given to us in our Communion… That’s what Mass is about. The simplest way we give to others is by “filling buckets” instead of emptying them in our words and simple actions each day.
There’s a lot of negativity – “bucket dipping” – in the culture around us. From surly sales clerks to people who cut us off while driving to noisy neighbors to “friends” who make cutting and critical remarks, it’s no surprise that most of us spend a lot of each day running on empty emotionally. When that behavior carries over into church we damage one another; but we’re reminded at every Mass that we don’t have to act this way, and that there’s a better alternative – the Way of Jesus.
A wonderful religious sister (now deceased) used to say about church life, “Time and effort only for building arks; no more energy for predicting rain!” The “Ain’t it awful?!” approach to parish life (and to fellow-parishioners) saps energy and (to be blunt) stands in the way of Christ’s work.
So let’s work together for a better parish. We’re capable of “filling one another’s buckets” if we become aware of the possibility, and choose to do it. Until next week peace!