Message in a Bucket

Here’s a story that you’ve probably heard before, but I want to wring a novel moral out of it.

A water bearer had two buckets, one hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One bucket had a split in it, the other was near perfect. At the end of each walk from the stream, the split bucket always arrived only half full. The perfect bucket arrived proud of its performance, fulfilled in the design for which it was made. But the poor split bucket was ashamed of its flaw, and miserable that it couldn’t accomplish what it felt it had been made to do. One day the flawed bucket spoke to the water bearer.
“I am ashamed of myself and I apologize to you.”
“Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”
“I am only ever able to deliver half my load because this split in my side causes water to leak out all the time.”
The water bearer, in his compassion, said, “Today I want you to notice the flowers along the path.”

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old split bucket noticed the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and was cheered somewhat. The bearer asked the bucket, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, and not on the other bucket’s side? I’ve always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we’ve walked, you’ve watered them. Your flaw has been a real blessing.”

Flaws, properly deployed, need not despond but can bless.  Even more constructively … I like to explain ‘potential’ to my students in terms of a sand bucket:
You are a bucket, I might say to them.  (I’d show them a bucket.)  This bucket represents your full potential.  How full is your bucket right now?  How … no, don’t look at that other guy’s bucket!  You can’t compare your bucket to his … No, how can we get more sand into your bucket?  What’ll it take?  Imagine your bucket full. What steps can you take to get there?  Let’s make a plan.

See, we’re all born with a certain amount of potential, framed in terms of time, abilities, opportunities – and flaws.  Enhanced by experience and education.  The other girl is born with her own potential and opportunities.  It’s pointless – damaging even – to compare ourselves to her.  She has her potential, I have mine.  Different.  Uncomparable.
The wisdom is to consider our own bucket of sand, and interrogate it.  How short of full is it?  How can it be fuller?  What would it look like full, and how could I get there?
How we answer these questions will determine how close we get – flawed or not – to our full potential.

The admirable Sir Murray Halberg died yesterday, at 89.  There is a man, physically disabled, who died with a full bucket.

We can reach the end of our path knowing that we’ve made the most of our abilities and inclinations and opportunities, and couldn’t have done better with what we had.  Not envying anyone else; having reached our potential; and content with that.

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