As part of my work to improve my Spanish, I use the Freerice app each day. This app quizzes me on Spanish vocabulary words; for each correct answer, 10 grains of rice are donated to the World Food Programme. Those grains are literally a drop in the bucket, but they are something. Everybody wins.
The big problem with Freerice is that I can’t control the vocabulary on which it quizzes me. Words that haven’t proved to be terribly useful to me yet pop up regularly. For example, Freerice almost always asks me about the words for needle and thread, aguja and hilo, even though my sewing is pretty much limited to reattaching buttons. Likewise, I often encounter the word for basement, sótano, even though we don’t have basements in Torrevieja, because we are next to the sea. But my favorite unuseful word is cubo, or bucket. I get this word almost every day, which is a great deal more often than I use a bucket, much less have a discussion about one. This part of the Freerice enterprise reminds me of the scenes in “Love Actually” where Colin Firth learns Portuguese in order to propose to the woman he’s fallen for. He mutters his new lingo in class and out of it, apparently hoping to cobble together a romance with some helpful phrases about that being his blue pencil and how he’d like to purchase a fish.
In fairness, having the word bucket on my Freerice list has gotten me thinking about my own bucket list. In my very charmed life, I’ve had the opportunity to check off lots of items that most people, including me, have on their lists. I’ve stood on the Great Wall, floated under the Bridge of Sighs in a gondola, and walked the terraces at Machu Picchu. I’ve craned my neck up at redwoods, snorkeled among turtles, and peered (from a safe distance) at flowing lava. I’ve visited many of the great cities and seen the world from a hot air balloon and a parasail. How lucky am I? Lots of people who are kinder, smarter, and harder working than I am have not had these opportunities.
And that’s just the things that lots of people want. Of course, each person has items that might not appeal to everyone, and that’s true for me, too. Living abroad, for example, was on my list and Mark’s, but it’s not for everybody. Riding bikes through Central Park and poking through bookshops on Charing Cross Lane were fun for Mark, but those were more for me than for him. And spending time in a museum in Berlin gazing at part of Priam’s Treasure from Troy (see picture above) was definitely a me thing. I got interested in Heinrich Schliemann’s haul when I was a kid and read Elizabeth Peters’s madly fun novel, “Trojan Gold.” We know now that the Russians have some of the booty that they took from the Germans at the end of WWII (and boy, are the Germans still angry about that!), but Ms. Peters’s account of a search in the mountains of Germany for Priam’s gold conducted by one of my favorite fictional couples, intrepid American historian Vicky Bliss and charming thief John Smythe, is an absolute delight.
Back to the list. Many items remain. Some of them are in process: we are scheduled to travel to Jordan and Israel this Spring, and we’ve booked an apartment for 10 days in June in Florence. We are hoping to go to an opera at La Scala. Other items will have to wait their turn: Australia and New Zealand, Antarctica, Egypt, and Greece are ahead of us, God willing. There’s more on my list, but you get the idea.
But there’s another aspect of buckets yet to ponder. A couple of years ago when a friend and I were participating in the Reading Buddies program in a school in Austin, the girl I read with introduced me to yet another wonderful book. Carol McCloud’s adorable “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” shows us how being kind and friendly can make others feel better and, in turn, make the world a better place. In other words, we try and fill other people’s buckets with good feelings. It’s a simple idea, but the book treats it with great care and good humor. And when I’m living my life the way I should, whether at home or out of a lark, filling other people’s buckets should, in fact, be the top item on any list I have.
So here’s to Freerice and cubos and Trojan gold and little kids and everything that fills our buckets. I hope yours overflows with joy and love today and that this post added a tiny drop to the deluge.