Observing life: The bucket-filling philosophy and the importance of compassion

I have observed so many disheartening encounters in public lately, you would think it was everyone’s New Year’s resolution to see how mean they could be in 2016. Here is one good example. Last month, 24 people from The National started a challenge with Haddins Fitness in Zayed Sports City to see how much healthier […]

I have observed so many disheartening encounters in public lately, you would think it was everyone’s New Year’s resolution to see how mean they could be in 2016.

Here is one good example. Last month, 24 people from The National started a challenge with Haddins Fitness in Zayed Sports City to see how much healthier we could become in eight weeks.

In our first week, before we started a brutal workout of the day, I overheard a very fit member of the gym complain: “There are too many people here today.” Her just-as-fit friend, clearly annoyed, groaned and replied: “A lot of people signed up after New Year’s.”

The message? This was their gym — get out. (Note: most of the people at Haddins Fitness are lovely.)

I’ve witnessed dozens of moments such as that — far too many — in the past few weeks. What is it about humans that pits us against each other?

Why did that annoyed woman not have a natural reaction to root for the new people, who were only there to become stronger, healthier versions of themselves? Many of those new people had to drag themselves away from decades of comfortable, sedentary living just to walk through the door that first week. Some had not exercised in years — or ever. Some were visibly terrified to even be in a gym.

And yet, they turned up, ready to change their lives — all while listening to some mean girl complain about their mere presence.

I see this in restaurants too. As The National’s food writer, it is my job to critique restaurants and point out the good — and the bad — about the food, the ambience and the service. But it’s not everyone’s job to do that.

Do you know how hard chefs work? They’re on their feet 15 hours or more six days a week, pouring their heart into making food you consume and then might never thank them for.

Same with the waiters. If a waiter brings the wrong order or the chef cooks your steak a little too long, I promise they’re not trying to ruin your night. They made a mistake. That’s it.

And if you do have a genuine complaint, perhaps you could try voicing that complaint nicely. Does your waiter really need to endure your wrath?

My seven-year-old daughter’s school employs the bucket-filling philosophy. This views everyone’s heart as a bucket. Every day, they try to fill each other’s buckets — with nice words and kind acts. The goal is to fill buckets, not dip from them. Bucket-dipping involves anything that takes away from someone’s happiness and self-worth.

There was no bucket-filling when I was in school. My guess is the philosophy came about when bullying grew so out of control that young kids started killing themselves.

I buy coffee a couple of times a week from the Starbucks cart in our lobby. The same woman serves it to me every time and I always tip her Dh5 every time. As I walk away, I notice her smile — every time. If I have a Dh12 taxi ride? Driver’s getting Dh20, every time. I see the gratitude.

As a Christmas gift, I told our nanny that I would pay for her daughter’s full year of school (a handful of bucket-filling friends have donated to the cause, too). That offer moved her to tears.

But I’m getting just as much out of seeing the smiles and feeling the gratitude — maybe more — as the people who are on the receiving end. I’m selfish in that respect. I am, in part, doing it for me, for how it makes me feel — I’m doing it because it helps to fill my own bucket.

Kindness moves people and surprises people because they never expect it.

You don’t have to be wealthy to be kind. We’re all capable of it. We should all be so lucky to master the art of bucket-filling. It isn’t always easy — but it is always worth it.

The Dalai Lama said: “If you want others to be happy, practise compassion. If you want to be happy, practise compassion.”

Be a bucket-filler.

sjohnson@thenational.ae

Source: art & life

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