"Publishing a book" was close to the top of that list. "Win an Amy" for faith-based journalism was up there too. "See my children grown and happy" has absolutely been as good as it gets. Ding! Ding! Ding! The list is certainly a lot shorter than it was a few years ago.
There are other items too. But the list is not organized, written down, or posted anywhere other than the back of my mind. It hasn't been seriously developed at all. But, if I had to give some kind of an accounting there are a few things I'd have to share:
- I want to publish a young adult novel, the kind that wins a Newbery Award. I know the plot exactly, and I've already sketched out the book in rough prose.
- I'm itching to speak to a huge crowd at a big event; to be invited to talk about my work internationally; to guest on Oprah's book club. I want to be on the New York Times bestseller list.
- Another item on my list is to cruise the Mediterranean on an educational study tour. We'd board in Spain, stop at every port in Italy, take in Greece slowly, start Turkey in Istanbul and work our way round like Paul on a mission, tour Israel and Egypt, hug the coast of North Africa and finish up in Morocco. All told, six weeks.
- I'd like to climb Kilimanjaro before the snow melts, see Victoria Falls, walk the Great Wall of China, spend one more full calendar year in England.
But today - that's Wednesday, August 25, 2010 - I checked off one small item that's been sitting on my list for the best part of 34 years. I walked up Springer Mountain in North Georgia, photographed myself at the Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail, and hiked a couple of miles of the AT with Rebekah, like we were heading off on the 2,179 mile trek to the far reaches of Maine.
I fell in love with the Appalachian Trail back in 1976, when I hiked the length of Virginia with a small group of friends. We were "out" for two full months. We climbed up into West Virginia at Harpers Ferry, cut through a small portion of Maryland, and ended up a few days into Pennsylvania.
But my "Bucket List" is not what drives me - it's just a fun way to think about some of my dreams. What drives me is my commitment to live the kind of life that honors the intention of my Creator. It's my calling is to live, to live as if I really mean it. No half-measures. No mediocrity.
I have a friend who died recently after a long struggle with a debilitating illness. He was in a wheelchair, faced constant pain, and was always having to deal with challenges that appeared overwhelming. But the strong testimony of his life was that - through long years of all this... crap - he simply lived.
He lived like he meant it. He didn't "get by", he didn't fuss, and he wasn't bitter about the mountains he couldn't climb or the places he couldn't get to. He lived at 100% of capacity.
My faith, and living with that level of abundance, is really the only thing on my list that counts at all.