I was always creating bucket lists when I was young. I managed to accomplish many of my dreams over the years. Now that I am older, such lists look very different than in the past. Of course, I still have longings to visit various places around the world, but more than anything my wish list tends to focus more on the future of my children and grandchildren, and the world that my generation will leave to them. Always the optimist, I’d like to believe that we will address the many issues that threaten our planet with a determination to create a better world.
I spent the last years of my teaching career working at KIPP Houston High School, a public charter school with distinctive philosophies about how to do things. We often took our students on trips, and we reminded them of their duty to leave each place that we visited better than it had been when we first came. A journey to New Orleans after hurricane Katrina involved working inside a damaged school. A visit to a park meant bringing trash bags and gloves to send crews of students to pick up trash. We attempted to inculcate a philosophy of sharing and caring into the lifestyles of our kids. We believed that teaching them to honor the world was as important as providing them with knowledge. We put the mantra, “Work hard, Be nice.” into action.
I suppose that I was as affected by my time at KIPP as I hope the students were. I began to think beyond my own self interests in a more demanding way. My bucket list began to focus more on solving problems than listing fun activities that I wanted to enjoy. Since the pandemic I have begun to simplify my life more and more. I find myself enjoying quiet, simple gatherings of my favorite people instead of expensive outings. My needs have shrunk, and I am more at ease with myself than ever. Somehow the months of isolation and concern about the health of the people of the world has helped me to understand and appreciate what is really important. Thus, my new bucket list appears to be more of an action plan or political/spiritual agenda than it might once have been. It is less and less about what I want for me, and more and more about my hopes for the future.
- I believe it is long past the time for every one of us to help contribute to the health of the planet. I’ve adjusted my thermostat so that my air conditioner and heater run less often than they once did. I keep making deliberate changes to habits that I had developed in ignorance. I spend time learning how to be more conscious of my own sins against the planet. I focus on leaving things better than they have been for a very long time. As I make sacrifices, I find that it is not that difficult to be more mindful of my own actions. I am more supportive of efforts to rethink the way we do things. I’m an old dog willing to attempt to learn new tricks because I believe that it is something that we all must do if we are to survive as people.
- I have long been a perfectionist, and as such I bristle at the thought of making terrible mistakes. I prefer compliments to critiques, but I have learned that there are times when we have to look truth squarely in the face. For too long we have ignored injustices by asserting our individual anecdotal experiences with minorities, the poor, immigrants, the LGBT community. We seem to believe that if we have been kind, then surely there is no real problem. We do not want to be reminded that there is still must work to be done to ensure equal and fair treatment for everyone. We hide inside our little bubbles refusing to consider the cries of those who insist that there are still grave difficulties for entire swathes of people. My hope is that we will begin to take our responsibilities to one another more seriously than ever before. Simply denying that there is are problems because we are personally good, is not a legitimate answer. We have to be willing to hear the experiences of people who have suffered without closing our ears or turning our gazes. Then we have to actually do something about the problems that exist without making excuses or worrying that our own privileges might change.
- It’s time that we all accept the old adage that no human is an island. Sharing our knowledge, our resources and our freedoms should not be a political game. Instead it should be a natural way of living. Every person on this earth is as important as I am. It is only by sheer luck that I ended up being born in a land of plenty and freedom with loving parents. I had incredible opportunities from the moment that I breathed my first breath. Even though I was beset with challenges and had to work hard, I have lived a gloriously secure life compared to so many of my fellow humans. I believe that those who have more are duty bound to share more, and not just the dregs of leftovers. It should be our goal to uplift as many others as possible, not just with financial support, but also by providing decent and affordable places to live, education, healthcare. We have to address suffering selflessly and with gratitude for our own good fortune.
I suppose that my bucket list appears to be the mad ravings of an idealist, but I am certain that we have the power to make such things happen, if only we have the will. Sometimes we humans need a nudge to take action. Surely the universe is shaking us with great force right now. I choose not to ignore it’s warnings, for if I do, it may be very dark for my loved ones after I am gone. It’s time to face reality, and join in the efforts to repair and reconcile. It’s something that I no longer just imagine, but strive to make a reality no matter how difficult it may be.