One benefit of the internet is being able to track down half-remembered phrases and bringing them again to clarity. I recently went in search of this remembered story about placing your hand in a bucket of water, though I didn’t remember it being a poem:
Saxon White Kessinger
Sometime when you’re feeling important;
Sometime when your ego’s in bloom
Sometime when you take it for granted
You’re the best qualified in the room,
Sometime when you feel that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how they humble your soul;
Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining
Is a measure of how you’ll be missed.
You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop and you’ll find that in no time
It looks quite the same as before.
The moral of this quaint example
Is do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember,
There’s no indispensable man.
Late spring and early summer is when many in the army move. We transfer to new duty stations, uprooted and transplanted yet again. And these departures are commemorated to varying degrees by awards and gatherings. This transitory nature of the army causes this poem to be even more applicable. If I returned to the churches I pastored before I was commissioned, there may still be people who remember me. But if I returned to old units, it is unlikely that anyone is still there who shared my tenure. Not only has my hand been removed from the bucket, but the water has been emptied and replaced as well.
No one likes feeling insignificant. We like to feel that we are indispensable, or at least not easily replaceable. But that is not the way life works. None of us leaves a permanent void. We may leave a void in our family when we die, but even that void passes within a generation. Instead of railing against our insignificance or striving for immortality in a world of mortals, though, we can make peace with it. We can realize that it is not only ourselves who fail to leave a hole in the water, but everyone around us. We have no reason to be jealous.
We ought, instead, to try to make those around us to feel significant. We should listen to and care for them. Doing so will not make us more significant, but we may ease their journey for a time. Perhaps through our example, they will pass on this care of a fellow sojourner.
Our significance does not come from others. If we have any significance it is because we are the creation of God. He loves us enough to speak to us, and on occasion, through us. He desires for us to be with him forever. The Lord God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, wants to be our God and to have us for his people. What greater significance is there than this?