Giving From an Empty Bucket

Before giving away something from your bucket, make sure there is something in your bucket. 

Compassion in a culture is an extremely valuable commodity. In many cases it is priceless. Compassionate people who are involved in humanitarian endeavors are usually pretty tough on the outside, and can function well in undesirable circumstances. But, many times on the inside they are way over on the thin side of the bell curve when it comes to fragility and vulnerability. Sometimes their hearts are even bigger than their heads. 

Lately, I have been made aware of the tragedy that occurs when compassionate people continue to give and give out of their buckets to meet the needs of others around them, but neglect to take care of their own physical, spiritual, and emotional well being. They keep reaching into their buckets and dispensing to others what is needed to help and heal. Then one day they reach into the bucket fully expecting to perform their compassionate actions as usual. As they reach deep into the bucket they discover that it is empty. The only sound from the bucket is the sound of their knuckles coarsely rubbing on the metal of the bottom of their own bucket. Then the trauma and tragedy of the situation becomes observable. 


If we do not have a plan of action for refilling and maintaining our own bucket of physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being, we are already in trouble. You just can’t give out of an empty bucket. When that happens our entire culture suffers the loss. 


While traveling throughout the world delivering health and hope through Project C.U.R.E., I would be in as many as twenty-seven countries in one year. I would see more filth and cockroach-infested hospitals, and experience more pain and misery and death and dying in thirty days than most people would see in a lifetime. A thousand times my heart would be broken. Many times in my hospital tours I would have to hide around a corner just to cry. I had to judiciously guard against an empty bucket. 


I realize this is personal, but I’m going to share with you from my own action plan just one of the things that helped me keep my bucket full. It became God, my family, my wife and my home that served to protect my bucket. The following is an unedited entry from my travel journal for November 4, 1998: 

I breathed in deeply until my lungs were filled to absolute capacity. I slowly exhaled and then filled my lungs again with the crisp Colorado mountain air. Someone in the glacier-torn canyon was burning logs in their fireplace and the slight scent of wood smoke mixed with the rain drenched smell of pine needles quietly, but emphatically, announced to my senses that I was home. I was home, safe within the locked iron gates that blocked the rest of the crazy world from trespassing across the bridge into the sanctuary we had called home for over 29 years.  
I listened with new ears to the creek in front of the house as the water noisily splashed over rocks deposited there thousands of years earlier. I gazed again in wonder at the majesty of the stately blue spruce, ponderosa pines and Douglas fir trees pointing their spires up and out from my yard into the misty heavens. I was home. Home was where, inside the old stone and log walls of the house, we had raised our sons and enjoyed the warmth and thrills of nearly a third of a century of Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Home was where I kept returning at every opportunity possible to rejoin the embrace of my childhood sweetheart and very best friend, Anna Marie . . . the girl who had turned my head and heart in high school, and through the ensuing years had totally captivated my respect, passion, and admiration. I had realized that if I could spend time with any girl in the world, I would certainly run home as fast as possible and spend that time with Anna Marie. I was home.  
At that moment I experienced absolutely no fear at all about some airport predator in Lagos, Nigeria, about whom the security people would warn me, “Don’t deal or even talk to any people at this airport . . . you have what they all want and they will kill you to get it.” No fear within my sanctuary about drinking parasite infested water that would make me deathly ill, or about inadvertently eating food contaminated with the hepatitis virus. No fear there of being involved in an automobile or airplane accident in some remote third world country, or contacting some strange and incurable disease, or getting robbed as I walked along some strange street in some desperate neighborhood halfway around the world. I breathed in deeply once again and refilled my lungs to capacity with the crisp autumn air of my Colorado haven. I was home.  
I didn’t used to realize how important it was to be grounded somewhere specifically when I would spend a large percentage of my life spinning and flying at the end of an unpredictable tether. But, now I was observing what was taking place in my life. I was keenly realizing that when God had directed and expected me to go and function in a very insecure environment, he had already overly compensated me with objects and situations of immeasurable security in order to keep me adequately stabilized on my journey. Not just a few times had I laid in some unfamiliar bed in a foreign country and had my mind return to my home. At that point I had been allowed to regain peace of mind and heart as I mentally walked along the babbling creek and listened to the singing of the rare songbirds of the Rocky Mountains. Many had been the times when I would fall asleep feeling the warm comforting arms of Anna Marie wrapped around me, giving me the security and confidence of her love, even though we were miles apart. God had prepared for me to go long before I was ever expected to go. And upon my return home from the latest thirty-day trip throughout Africa, I was reminded once again of God’s extremely generous expression of faithfulness and provision in my life. I was home.  
(Dr. JWJ’s Travel Journal; November 4, 1998) 

Before giving away something from your bucket, make sure there is something in your bucket.