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Bucket Fillers and Bucket Dippers

Updated: Jan 31, 2020

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (August 13, 2015)

“Mummy, thank you for filling my bucket today”

One parent just came and shared that her son said that to her last night as she was reading to him. What exactly did he mean?

Eugene (not his real name) was in the class that focused on the topic of ‘Caring for Others’ and in his class, he read the book “Have you filled a bucket today?”. This delightful children’s book talks about how everyone has an invisible bucket. This bucket is to hold all the love and care we have and when it is full, it makes us happy; but when it is empty, we feel sad. So the way to be happy is to have a full bucket so we should be filling other people’s buckets by showing them love and care. As Eugene’s mum tucked him into bed at night and read him a bedtime story, it filled his bucket and was thankful for that.

And it’s wonderful when people fill our buckets. We feel loved and possibly warm and fuzzy inside. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s also about filling other people’s buckets to make THEM feel cared for and loved. Jonathan (not his real name) was also reading the book in class and learnt about the importance of filling other people’s buckets. The next day, I found a sealed envelope on my desk that had been placed there that morning. As I opened to read it, it said “Happy Birthday Ms Christine!”. Jonathan had found out it was my birthday so when he went home, he made me a birthday card. After placing it on my desk, he shared with his teacher that he had filled my bucket by gifting me with a thank you card. Boy, was he right! My bucket was filled with his love and thoughtfulness that day.

The amazing thing about filling these buckets is that the more you fill other people’s buckets, the more yours get filled too! It’s not that when you give your love to others that your supply gets depleted, rather it’s quite the opposite. Filling other people’s buckets, ends up filling yours too. Jonathan was able to understand and express this last week.

Jonathan and his classmates had the opportunity to meet with some elderly from St. James Settlement last week. These elderly don’t often get an opportunity to interact with children and even just seeing the children made them beam with a smile. During this time of meeting, the children played games with the elderly, conversed with them and gave them gifts. Jonathan was one of the students who took part in this activity day. At the end of the day, students were asked to share whose bucket they filled that day. Jonathan’s hand shot up and he said, “I filled the buckets of the ‘gung gung’ and ‘por por’ and because I filled theirs, mine was filled too”. Jonathan understands the bucket-filling equation!

But in the same way we can fill other people’s buckets, we can dip into theirs too. ‘Bucket dippers’ are ones who say harsh words, are unkind to others and bully people. Unfortunately, many children like to be ‘bucket dippers’, thinking that by dipping into other people’s buckets, it will fill their own. How untrue that is! And part of understanding the bucket analogy is to know that there are times to put a lid on your own bucket so that ‘bucket dippers’ can’t dip into it.

Seeing how Eugene and Jonathan and many others are learning to love and care for others fills me with hope and warmth knowing that there are children in this world who will make the world a better place by filling other people’s buckets. May we all be bucket fillers who teach our next generation to be the same so that the world can be a happier place with filled buckets!


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