Now that I have kids well into their teens and heading off to college, I find my hopes and dreams for them are just as big and bold today as they were when they were heading off to preschool. Only now, those hopes and dreams have become less about societal status, financial independence, and post-graduate educations, and more about real, genuine life-changing experiences I want them to have.
Like most young people these days, they already have their own bucket list of life experiences they want to have — adventurous trips to exotic countries, swimming with sharks, hiking the Appalachian Trail, learning another language. But my bucket list for them would be entirely different and would be comprised of selfless acts of courage, compassion, and one-of-a-kind moments that can be just as life-changing and affirming as jumping out of an airplane, if not more.
I call it a compassion bucket list for my kids. It’s comprised of some ordinary and extraordinary experience boxes I’d love for my kids to be able to check off their life journey list over and over again because these are things you don’t do just once in a lifetime:
1. Stand up and speak out against bullying and poor treatment for someone you don’t even know.
2. Be the voice for the elderly when they are being taken advantage of.
3. Shake the hand of a war veteran and say, “Thank you for my freedom.”
4. When you see someone ahead of you in line struggling to pay for groceries, jump in and pay.
5. Serve Thanksgiving dinner to the needy, forgoing a huge traditional meal at your house in favor of frozen pizza.
6. Give someone their very first real job.
7. Babysit for nervous first-time parents.
8. Fight for the free speech and religious rights of someone you absolutely and fundamentally disagree with.
10. Spend your entire vacation doing volunteer work.
11. Coach a kid’s sports team before you have your own kids.
12. Pay off someone’s Christmas toy layaway.
13. Help a stranded motorist with a tire change.
14. Clean up and mow a neighbor’s overgrown yard.
15. Help a friend leave an abusive relationship.
16. Relieve an exhausted caregiver, even when you’re exhausted too.
17. Give up your first class, front row, or more expensive seat to a soldier, pregnant woman, or disabled person.
18. Let frazzled people cut in front of you in line frequently. Very frequently.
19. Always leave big tips, but especially to the overnight shift.
20. Give great presents to the people who clean your office and your home.
21. Call your aging parents several times a week just to say “Hello.”
22. Sing at a nursing home.
23. Never ask permission to do the right thing.
24. Don’t die with a large savings account.
25. Honor someone’s last wish.
Can you imagine what a better world we would be living in if people gave up dreams of skydiving and instead became dedicated to fulfilling these kinds of bucket lists? I can’t even.