Transitions With Jean Blog

Have You Filled A Bucket Today?

Jan 1, 2023

January. Brrrr. Here we are in the month of ice, of cold temperatures, short days with little sunshine, with wind-chill factors, and joy. Yes, I said joy!

Wouldn’t you like to get joy in your life? I discovered how to do that when I recently visited a kindergarten class at Spring Road Elementary School. I was assisting Fox Crossing police officer Dan Wiechman as he read books to the kiddos. It is part of the Kiwanis ‘n Cops ‘n Kids reading program.

When I walked into Mrs. Cassandra Corrado’s classroom, it was obvious that this place was enchanting. There was a rocking chair that was the center of a reading circle. On the chair was a magical purple sequined pillow that could be written on with just the sweep of your finger. The colors in the room were wonderful.

Officer Dan read a story called “The Caring Me I Want to Be.” It was about helping others. Then, Mrs. Corrado started talking about how caring for others helps you fill your bucket. All the kids nodded sagely. This appeared to be a topic that they were well-versed in.

“Fill your what?” I thought.

Later, Mrs. Corrado shared this concept of “bucket filling” which was started in the 1960’s by Dr. Donald Clifton. The idea is that we all are born with an imaginary bucket of happiness. It starts out empty and we want to fill it. The trick is that we cannot fill our bucket of happiness by ourselves. There are two ways we can fill it. First, someone can fill it for us, they can give us happiness. Or, second, we can fill our bucket by filling someone else’s bucket, in other words, only by giving someone else happiness, can we be happy.

Mrs. Corrado starts each school year by explaining the story of the happiness bucket. She said, “You always want to find ways to lift each other up. You can do that through a smile, saying thank you, helping someone with their chair, sharing, giving a compliment, or even as Officer Dan was doing, reading a story to someone.” Throughout the year she challenges the class to always be looking for ways to fill the happiness bucket for others.

I was so excited about Mrs. Corrado’s bucket-filling strategy that when I got home, I talked to my grandson, Lance, about it. He is in first grade. Of course, he already knew all about the happiness bucket. “Grandma,” he explained patiently to me, “The worst thing you can do is dip into someone else’s bucket. It is mean and it empties your bucket.”

It is so true, isn’t it, that we feel good when we fill a bucket for someone else. So, back to my opening lines, is your bucket running on empty? No wonder you might feel sad. Let’s make January a month for joy. Fill that bucket. Look for ways to give others happiness. I would love to hear back from you about the ways you are filling someone’s bucket. I will share them with you next month.

Jean Long Manteufel writes a column on the first Sunday of each month about life changes associated with aging. Send your questions to or call 920-734-3260.