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If it’s not going to appear on my tombstone, it’s not going to appear on my bucket list.
Late in life I have been bitten by the travel bug. I love exploring new places, I love seeing interesting architecture and unusual scenery and I love being in a different time zone than my children!
But much as I enjoy these new adventures, and even though I have a list of places I still like to see (kosher trip to Ireland anyone?), I would never think of listing them on my bucket list. In fact I would never think of creating a bucket list that involves the physical pleasures of this world.
It wouldn’t be my bucket list because (I hate to be a downer) it wouldn’t be on my tombstone. Just as no one’s tombstone reads “He created a great international business”, neither does it say: “She walked around the Great Wall of China” or “She enjoyed a kosher cruise to Alaska” (even though I actually did). As wonderful as those pleasures are, they pale in comparison to the great pleasures of life. And they are not reflective of any type of growth or accomplishment.
So with the Hebrew month of Elul approaching and with Rosh Hashanah on my mind, I am preoccupied with creating for myself a spiritual bucket list, a list of ways I would like to grow and character traits I would like to develop and enhance. These are ideas and accomplishments that I would be proud to have on my tombstone. I’d like to be kinder. I’d like to be more patient. I’d like to be more thoughtful. I’d like to put others before myself, especially my husband. I’d like to be less involved in my ego. I’d like to be less subject to the pull of my negative inclinations. I’d like to be more loving. I’d like to deepen my connection to the Almighty.
This bucket list may seem less exciting than most. I’m not rappelling down the sides of mountains or scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. I’m not swimming with the dolphins or sharks or any other big fish. There’s no safari to Africa or ice hotel in Iceland. No steppes in Russia or cruise down the Mekong. It’s not that I wouldn’t like to do those things (well, I would hate the rappelling and the scuba diving!) but they’re not my priority.
They’re one-time opportunities that may rejuvenate and may deepen my awe but they won’t keep me on a daily path of growth. They won’t keep my soul nourished. They won’t create an ongoing and lasting connection to the Almighty.
Jack Nicholson certainly wouldn’t star in a movie about my bucket list. But when it comes to our goals, life is too serious and time is too precious to limit them to our physical experiences. I want more. I want to realize my potential in all its depth and possibility and that means doing the hard work and not just taking a beautiful vacation.
This is the opportunity of the month of Elul, to reflect on our spiritual bucket list and to make a plan to bring the promise and potential of those goals to fruition. Our spiritual bucket lists may not be box office hits but they will have an impact that really counts.