Saturday, August 13, 2011

Non-Bucket Lists and other thoughts

I like bucket lists. 
It’s the kind of list made famous by the movie of the same name with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.  Two men diagnosed with a terminal illness set off on a road trip with a “to-do” list before they die.

I’ve always had that same kind of “to-do” list, tucked neatly in the corner of my mind, of things I intend to do or learn or observe before my life has run its course.  I’ve surprised myself at one or two things that I’ve accomplished and I’m excited about the group of items that populate the current version of the list in my head.    

A bucket list should be fluid, evolving as one’s life progresses and changes.  Life isn’t a static enterprise; neither should one’s aspirations be.  Some items on my list have dropped off simply because they no longer have an appeal.  Others have been added as a personal challenge at particular stages of my life.  I’ve tried never to remove something because I’ve given up trying or decided I couldn’t do it.  Like most people, my ideals are sometimes grander than my actions.  That’s really what a bucket list represents. Coming as close to one’s personal ideals as often as one can. 

I was thinking about my bucket list recently and my thoughts took a different twist.  I thought about interesting things I’ve been able to do that weren’t on my “bucket” list, things that have happened in the course of my life that I never really planned to do, but got to do them anyway. 

Here are some of them:

-          I sang a solo at a public gathering. And no one threw tomatoes.
-          I preached a sermon in an African-American church on a Sunday morning. Got a lot of “amens” from the congregation.
-          I fed pigeons in Hyde Park in London, England on a sunny Wednesday afternoon.
-          I flew in a helicopter.  And didn’t throw up.
-          I occasionally played the bass guitar as part of a musical group.  Badly.
-          I learned to use chopsticks in a restaurant in Singapore.  And managed to get some food in my mouth.
-          I snorkeled in the Caribbean.  And swam with some beautiful fishes.
-          I spent a summer pitching hay bales into east Texas barns for a few cents each. The hardest and most rewarding work I’ve ever done for the least money I’ve ever made.
-          I traveled on a private corporate jet from Texas to Iowa.  Sweet trip.
-          I listened to heart-wrenching stories at Boston’s Logan Airport and the adjoining hotel a couple of weeks after 9/11.  (The two airplanes that struck the World Trade Center Towers originated from Logan Airport).  And the eerie feeling when we boarded a flight from that airport the next day.
-          I was a dinner guest aboard an Iranian Naval training ship.  When they were still our friends.
-          I walked the grounds of the Mayan pyramid at Chichen Itza.  The iguanas regarded me suspiciously.
-          I took a train trip from Great Britain to France under the English Channel.  And didn’t even get wet.
-          I shared my two grandson’s first “rock” concert, the American progressive rock band Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  My wife rocked the house, too.
-          I ate fried horse lung in Jakarta, Indonesia. Wouldn’t recommend it.
-          I attended Sunday church services at Westminster Abbey.  A holier place I’ve never been.
-          I danced on stage with my granddaughter in front of a thousand people.  I was nervous.  She was a pro.
-          I survived a taxi ride in Paris, France.
-          I played “Chinese Fire Drill” with my wife on the spur of the moment at a busy intersection.  I’m still not sure why, other than it seemed like a fun idea at the time.
-          I spent a late afternoon watching the sun set over Copenhagen’s Nyhavn Canal in Denmark.
-          I sailed the sea on a cruise ship with my wife, daughters and their families and learned from our steward how very fortunate we were.

All of us have had opportunities to experience some cool things in our lives; moments that take us from the ordinary to the extraordinary.  For me, it seems that I’ve been given much more than my fair share.  I don’t take it for granted.  I know how rare a thing I’ve been given.  I don’t know why.  I don’t deserve anything more than anyone else.  And maybe I really haven’t been given more than my fair share.  Maybe I just think my life has been blessed beyond measure.  If so, it’s working for me.  And that just might be the secret to contentment.

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