Time to Rethink Your Bucket List


I read today that the temperature at Furnace Creek in Death Valley this week will be 117 degrees. That’s funny. When I was there two years ago with my daughter, it was a comfortable 107 degrees.


Our trip to Death Valley—and also to a small observatory in the Eastern Sierras—was two checks off a bucket list that I didn’t know I had: visiting Death Valley, and seeing a galaxy through a telescope.


The term “bucket list” is a recent invention, although the idea is probably rather old. First coined in 1999, it refers to “a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket.” I’ve seen books on this subject, like “100,000 Places You Must See Before You Die” and so on, that make you feel like you are missing out even if you don’t feel like you are missing out.


But there are things I have wanted to see or do, goals I have wanted to achieve in my lifetime, mostly having to do with natural phenomena. Seeing a galaxy has always been one, although as we were high in the Eastern Sierras, outside, freezing cold, with a fair-sized telescope, you could say that I technically “saw” the Pinwheel Galaxy. What I actually saw was a teeny smudge—but it WAS a galaxy! Viewing the full solar eclipse with my son in 2017 was another wish I never thought would be possible. Since living in the Midwest, I have been talked out of trying to see a tornado—a big bucket-list item—and will settle for viewing one on YouTube. But I still am hoping to see live lava running down a volcano.


During this pandemic, I think that our priorities have undergone a tectonic change. The old question “Where would you like to be in ten years?” is being replaced by “What about tomorrow?” The virus has given us a new perspective on the value of every moment of life, and the preciousness and the tenuousness of life. So many have died, so many are suffering from the illness, that we realize how important it is to live each moment fully, for we do not know how many more moments there may be.


So my bucket list has added one thing: to savor each moment. To really taste the muffin, to be aware of the blessings that I have, and most of all, really to appreciate the people I hold dear. Part of the savoring is to refrain from doing five things at once—a practice from my younger days when I believed that efficiency is a laudable goal. It is, if you work for a bank. In life, not so much, when it means that you can’t taste your muffin because you are also reading the news, folding the laundry, and washing dishes at the same time.


Besides the muffin, another blessing that I have had is the ministry that I am so blessed to have at St. Barnabas and the addition to my life of people here that I now hold dear. I have savored every moment of being at St. Barnabas.


So that’s another thing on my bucket list that I didn’t know was there: The opportunity to serve in such an awesome church with people who take prayer seriously, and practice what they pray, and live out what they believe, and are awesomely friendly to boot. A community of encouragement indeed.


The new rector is coming soon, and that person will be so lucky to be here. You probably didn’t know you were on somebody’s bucket list, so savor that knowledge!


-Joanna+


I would love to hear your reactions and thoughts! Please respond at clergy@st-barnabas.org and let’s have a conversation!