What’s your Thanksgiving bucket list?

Photo by Keerati. Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by Keerati. Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

“Bucket list.” It’s a curious phrase, supposedly meaning “the list of all the things I want to do before I kick the bucket.” That, of course, only begs the question of how “kick the bucket” came to mean ‘”die.” The theories I’ve seen are a little gruesome — so maybe it’s better not to ask.

What is it you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t?
This may be your last chance,
 the list suggests.
What experiences have you been putting off?  Years ago, for example, my wife and I mused that we might visit every national park in the United States.

We were never that serious about it. It was just a nice daydream, something pleasant to contemplate for a few moments before relegating it with a sigh to the wastebasket of Impractical Ideas. Whether we carry out our dreams or not, though, bucket lists tend to arise out of a sense of deprivation, of wishes unfulfilled.

But this Thanksgiving, I’d like to shift the metaphor a bit. Instead of dreaming about experiences we haven’t had, we can reminisce about ones we have. Instead of feeling wistful about empty wishes, we can try to envision a Thanksgiving bucket filled with memories of the people and events in our lives for which we are grateful. What or who would be on your Thanksgiving bucket list, and why?

I know: life can be brutally difficult sometimes. There may seem to be precious little for which we might be thankful, and “Count your blessings” sounds like nothing more than an annoyingly pious platitude. Things aren’t right; the world is off-balance. Relationships are fragile. Injustice abounds.

And yet: the Bible itself leaves ample room for a creative tension between lament and praise, mournfulness and joy. Often, it is the habitual practice of gratitude, in the face of all circumstances, that allows us to even notice the traces of God’s presence and activity. We needn’t be naive in our thanksgiving. But neither must we be blinkered by our difficulties.

So go ahead. What’s on your Thanksgiving bucket list? And is there someone you need to call or write to say “thank you”? Do it while you’re still thinking about it.

Or at the very least, do it before you kick the bucket.

Tomorrow, I’ll share some ideas gleaned from the research in positive psychology that might help your Thanksgiving Day rituals go a little more smoothly.

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