Seven Life Lessons from An 8-Year Old: Ruby’s Bucket List

“…Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old will dream dreams, your youth will see visions.” (Joel 3:1)

Ruby is eight years old and she already has a “Bucket List.”

A little background about Ruby: both of her parents are Jewish educators. Her mother has been the Associate Camp Director at one of the Reform Movement’s summer camps for many years. Her father is an artist and is a teacher at a liberal Jewish Day School. Her maternal grandmother and step-grandfather are also Jewish educators. And they are all very involved in their local Reform congregation.

Ruby has grown up with Jewish summer Camp as her second home, with the synagogue as her extended family and with her family encouraging her to pursue her passions.

When her father posted Ruby’s “Bucket List” on Facebook, I realized that Ruby’s list has important life lessons for each of us. As we are taught from the biblical book of Joel (3:1):

וְנִבְּא֖וּ בְּנֵיכֶ֣ם וּבְנֽוֹתֵיכֶ֑ם זִקְנֵיכֶם֙ חֲלֹמ֣וֹת יַחֲלֹמ֔וּן בַּח֣וּרֵיכֶ֔ם חֶזְיֹנ֖וֹת יִרְאֽוּ׃Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old will dream dreams,
your youth will see visions.

Ruby's Bucket ListRuby’s Lesson #1: Pursue Your Passions/Dreams

Ruby wrote her “Bucket List” in her notebook.

Three of the items on her list deal with her professional goals, which are quite lofty for an eight-year old: invent an I-Cube, become a technological engineer and become a famous engineer. Ruby loves science, computers and technology. She’s loves visiting the Ontario Science Center with her grandparents and parents. Her classmates always ask for her help with computer work. She figured out she can channel her passion into a professional goal and do what she loves for her vocation. This will lead to a life of contentment and fulfillment.

Ruby’s Lesson #2: If at First You Don’t Like Something, Try Again

You’ll notice that Ruby has “try creeme [sic] cheese” on her list. While Ruby loves bagels and lox, in her mother’s words, she “detests cream cheese.” Ruby understands that our tastes change. She also intuitively realizes that at times, it might take awhile for us to come to like something new. This applies to new foods, experiences and yes, even people. Just because you didn’t like something the first or even second time, it does not mean you won’t like it the third or fourth time. (You might still not like it, but you won’t know unless you try). What matters most is the effort one invests in trying.

Ruby’s Lesson #3: Protect the Environment & the Earth

One of Ruby’s life goals is to live in a “smart house”. (I would expect nothing less from a famous technological engineer!) The best “smart houses” are also “Green Houses” which are the most ecologically and environmentally safe and friendly. We were given this earth to borrow while we are alive. We must bequeath it to the next generation – and all who come after them – in better condition than we found it. It’s incumbent upon us to take care of our world to the very best of our ability.

Ruby’s Lesson #4: Live Safely in the World

Ruby has three goals that involve swimming: pass the Camp George swim test, dive from a diving board and do a kneeling dive. In our Jewish tradition, we are taught that a parent has five obligations to a child by the time the child turns 13: (Traditionally that child was a boy, hence point #1)

  1. enter the child into the life of the Jewish people through the covenant of circumcision (brit milah) when the baby boy was 8 days old;
  2. teach the child to swim (so that he or she would never drown);
  3. teach them a profession (so that they could always sustain themselves);
  4. teach them Torah (so that they know how to live a Jewish life);
  5. find them a suitable spouse (so that they would never be alone and they can start their own family).

Ruby’s goals involving swimming represent the notion of learning how to live safely in our world. There are so many areas of life where we can figure out how to “life safely”: diet, exercise, financial, internet security. We need to be prudent and thoughtful. Our life is a gift from God and we need to protect it.

Ruby’s Lesson #5: Take Risks and Be Adventurous

While living safely is critical, we can’t wrap ourselves in bubble wrap. There are times that it’s important to take risks, try new things and be adventurous. Eight-year old Ruby wants to go bungee jumping (scares the living daylights out of me!) But good for her! Sometimes, we grow from taking risks. Our adventures will often open new horizons and give us insight to new emotions, new ideas and new ways of thinking. The old adage definitely applies: “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Ruby’s Lesson #6: Encourage Others to Achieve Success

Recently, Ruby’s mother has taken up sewing as a hobby. It’s beautiful to see that Ruby’s “Bucket List” includes items for her family as well. It is not self-centered. When we support and encourage our friends, family and community in their endeavors, it not only gives them strength, it strengthens us as well. When we give love to others, we get back so much more in return. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)

Ruby’s Lesson #7: Family and Community are the Most Important Parts of Our Lives

Ruby expresses a desire to have a daughter. Her parents and extended family encourage her individuality, her sense of inquisitiveness, her passion for learning. They spend time with her alone and time with her and her younger brother together. Ruby has learned to cherish the value of family.

At the same time, she feels safe in the extended family of her Jewish community: her Jewish summer camp (where she can practice all of her different swimming/diving techniques), where she can celebrate Shabbat and the Holy Days and where she can express her own unique Jewish identity.

Family and community make our lives richer, more fulfilling and more complete. With family and community by our side, anything is possible.

What’s on your “Bucket List?”