What’s Missing from Your Bucket List?


It's obvious - and yet so often overlooked or forgotten.

By Eric Peterschmidt

That list… you know the one. The list of things we want to do while we still can. The “bucket list.” 

For many, there are trips to exotic – or not so exotic – places. “Airboat through the Everglades,” perhaps. Or “visit all 50 states.” Maybe it’s simple – “Go camping in the mountains” or “take a bike ride on the Katy Trail.” 

Some bucket list items are nature-inspired, like “have a wild deer eat out of my hand,” “pet an elephant,” or “ride a horse for the first time.” “Swim with dolphins” is another popular bucket list item (and one I’d like to do myself). 

Others are quite personal: “Become a parent,” “save a life,” “find my birth parents,” or “trace my family tree.” 

Bucket lists inspire us to do more, be more, see more. To get into action. To fulfill dreams.  

But there’s one big thing that is missing from most bucket lists. Is it missing from yours? 

Tell the stories. 

That’s right. Tell the stories. And pass them on. 

If you’re a parent, there are stories you could share with your children about growing up, how you met your spouse, stories about your wedding, their birth, your first house, that dog that actually did eat your homework… 

As part of a family, you likely have stories to share about Uncle Larry and that one Thanksgiving, or the strangest gift you ever got, or the driving test when you got your license. A birthday party that turned into a disaster, a neighborhood event, or even the birthday that didn’t happen. The time Aunt Millie came over to bake cookies and put in salt instead of sugar and you tried to pretend they were good because you didn’t want to hurt her feelings. 

The stories that have made you into the person you are. 

When you start telling the stories, you might be surprised. Another family member might have something to say about Uncle Larry and his holiday antics, or how Aunt Millie always messed up the cookies. Or a memory you didn’t expect about when you announced you were getting married, or a different perspective on that thing that happened in school that time. 

When you accomplish the trip that’s on your bucket list, what will be most meaningful to your family? The pictures you take? Or the stories you tell that go with them? How did you FEEL when you stood on the Great Wall of China? How did it FEEL to finish that 100 mile bike ride (and how many days until you could walk again)? What did you have to go through to swim with a pod of dolphins?  

The stories are what make the pictures come alive. 

Many of us don’t have pictures of some of the things we remember from our childhood. Did you win the school spelling bee? Your school picture from that year could inspire a host of stories to share. A relative’s wedding picture might remind you of hiding under the tables and untying people’s shoes (ahem – I don’t know anyone who did that). 

The stories make us real – releasing us from the family “context” and enriching our legacy. Are you a colorful character or a house mouse? A trouble-starter or the family peacemaker? The rule-follower or the rebellious one?  

Wouldn’t your family LOVE to hear your stories? 

I encourage you to add this one thing to your bucket list: TELL THE STORIES. 

If you are fortunate enough to have elders in your family, add one more thing to your bucket list: GATHER THE STORIES. 

That’s right – start asking the elders questions about their lives. Capture the stories. Find the old photos and ask who the people are, what the occasion was, where it took place, and when. Type or record the stories. Preserve them for the next generations.

The best thing about these two additions to your bucket list? They don’t cost a thing. You don’t have to travel, you don’t need to buy a ticket, and you don’t need to be physically fit. You just have to talk or type or listen or record. 

Pull out a picture – an old one, a recent one – whatever works for you. What’s the story behind it? 

The stories are where the real memories are – and they deserve to be remembered, shared, and cherished. Don’t you think? 

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