The Bucket List (in a Jar)–In Which We Feed the Hungry

Dear Lily June,

The expression “to kick the bucket” is a weird one, and scholars argue over how it came to be used as idiomatic slang meaning “to die.”

One slang dictionary from 1823, written by a Mr. John Badcock, claims it refers to suicide by hanging, where folks would would stand on a bucket, thrust their necks through the noose, and literally kick the bucket out from underneath themselves in order to end it all.

The Oxford English Dictionary, on the other hand, claims it refers to the beam or yoke upon which a pig was hung for the slaughter. Because the doomed porker would have been suspended upside-down by his heels, he’d likely “kick the bucket” as he was bleeding out.

Catholic custom even held that a bucket of holy water might be placed at a corpses’ feet for mourners to splash their newly deceased (though one hopes no Catholic zombies were punting the water over).

It’s an interesting debate.


Whatever its proper origins, it’s inspired a new take on life, too: The Bucket List. A bucket list is a cataloging of items one hopes to accomplish before they die. For your mother, these might include things like Get a Tattoo or Publish a Book. For your father, Learn to Make Beef Jerky or Publish a Book. For you, Lily, who knows? When I asked you about it, your response at eight months old was, “alidjfdisy89e#@1!” and “Publish a Book.” So I truly hope you get to accomplish one of those at some point in your life.

Ultimately, in an effort to get your parents up and out and active on Saturdays, our one day of the week given our work schedules that we truly get together as a family, we’ve decided to make our own “Family Bucket List.” But, you know, in a Jar because it looks more pretty. Viola!

Welcome to your mother’s ironically organized attempt at spontaneity.

Our rules of engagement are as follows:

  • The items in neon pink are tasks for your mother; the items in neon orange are for your father; the items in neon yellow/green are for our whole family. Eventually, Lily, these items will be solely for you. Some of the pink tasks are ones your father wrote for me; some of the orange tasks are ones I wrote for him. We’ll see what we can get the other to do!
  • We’ll take turns as a family blindly reaching into the jar and pulling out a task. Every third week, your dad and I will take turns pulling the slobbery item you’ve selected back out of your mouth, where you’re sure to cram it within 3.2 seconds.
  • The “picker” will choose the week before. That way, if the task requires some setup or preparation, they have a week to get things ready. For instance, a couple of the items involve (fairly local, fairly safe) travel. It would be up to that person to purchase tickets, make phone calls, play secretary. The picker won’t tell what the item will be, though, unless necessary, preserving the sacred excitement of the activity for the rest of the family.
  • If there’s a week where one of the three of us is just absolutely too busy (major work or school projects, family emergency, terrifying diaper explosion, etc.), we’ll skip that week. It’s meant to be fun, not forced.


Our first task, for this week, is one I both wrote for your dad and ended up picking. It’s Donate to/Volunteer at a Charity of Your Choice. Because it was up to your dad to choose, I had to tell him early, and he picked a local food bank.

Part of the reason this was his pick, Lily, is that your Grandma Alison has fallen upon hard times lately, and she’s had to get her groceries from food banks and bizarres that give away sustenance for charity. Before her retirement, she often gave what she could to help those in need, buying kids that weren’t even her own winter coats or clothes just because it was the right thing to do. So generous and huge is her heart that you can’t point to an item in her home, be it furniture, clothes, food, etc. with a compliment lest you risk taking it home from her. It’s clear she’s had a huge impact on the generosity and kindness of your father.

Why wouldn’t we just give directly to your Grandmother? She’s also fiercely proud (another trait she’s passed on to your father) and won’t accept help from her family. She believes it’s her job to help us and not the other way around, and I practically had to twist her arm at Thanksgiving to let me cook for everybody. (And she let me, too, though she bought us a roaster and a platter she couldn’t afford and drove tables an hour in the cold with her windows rolled down to do it, just so we would have everything.) Things have gotten scary lately with her health, as they think she might have a blood clot in her foot requiring emergency surgery and possibly related to, ironically, a problem with her heart. Your dad may go out to Ohio next weekend to be with her.

In the meantime, we don’t have much, Lily. We own nothing brand name, and when I was pregnant with you, we shopped at Goodwill just to accommodate my expanding belly. But as Henry James wrote,

“We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”

In 2016, Lily, your family is going to live like it’s an art, and we’re going to be mad and passionate and generous about it. This weekend, we’re going to go grocery shopping with two carts, one for our blood family, and one for our greater human family. We’re going to get what we can afford (which isn’t much) for those who might not be able to afford anything. And next week (because they only accept donations through the weekdays), we’re going to drive our box of goodies in to the Second Harvest Food Bank in Muncie.

I can’t wait. Take that, bucket list in a jar. We’re on our way.


If you’re reading this and you’re not Lily, but you have just one dollar, I’m asking you to do something for me. This is the Second Harvest Food Bank website, and they indicate on the front page that for every dollar you give, they can provide four meals to somebody. I won’t ask for much often, readers, but this isn’t for me. This isn’t even for my blood family. This is for YOUR human family. Please consider clicking on their Donate page, and writing in your dollar donation (or choosing one of their higher amounts), which can be given by PayPal from all over the country. You could keep a child–like your own maybe, or like my Lily, from going hungry for another day.

And for that, I would truly be thankful. If you leave me a comment that you donated, I’ll trust you, and the next time I do a bucket list post, I’ll be sure to link back to your blog to thank you.


Picture Credits:

Works Referenced:

  • Badcock, John. Slang: a dictionary of the turf, the ring, the chase, the pit, of bon-ton, and the varieties of life, London 1823, p.18.
  • “ˈbucket, n.2.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2015. Web. 4 February 2016.

22 thoughts on “The Bucket List (in a Jar)–In Which We Feed the Hungry

  1. Allie P. says:

    What a neat take on the bucket list concept. In case, your readers need further convincing – food and education are linked. When parents don’t worry about food, their children tend to do better in school. Who knows? A small donation today could result in a cure for cancer tomorrow.

    Liked by 2 people

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