While volunteering in Audrey’s kindergarten classroom, her teacher mentioned, “Audrey is good at filling buckets.” Knowing Audrey’s love of all things organized, I quipped, “She does love a good storage container.” The teacher said, “No. I mean happy buckets. We talk about them in kindergarten. You come to school with a bucket of happy, and some people fill up your bucket and others empty your bucket. Audrey helped Shane pick up all the papers that fell out of his folder this morning. She filled his bucket.”

Since this conversation with her teacher, I have noticed Audrey using her happy bucket language. Sometimes she will get in the van and say, “Amanda taunted me on the playground. She emptied my bucket.” Another time, she shared, “Sam dropped his tray at lunch. I helped him pick it all up. I filled his bucket.” I like the duality of recognizing when someone is filling or emptying your bucket as well as being responsible for filling or emptying other people’s buckets. I like the concrete imagery of the happy bucket.

Recently, I encountered a person who was determined to empty my happy bucket and shake out every last drop. According to her, I had not met her expectations, and she needed to vent her frustration at me. I heard her. I reassured her. I apologized. It didn’t matter what I said or did, she was determined to ruin my day with her attitude. There was no end to her anger, angst, and annoyance. I heard my brain scream, “Hands off my happy bucket.” In that instant I was able to step away from the emotion of the situation and decide who had the power to upset me. Why was I giving my happy away? I have a choice about who empties my happy bucket and I can choose to say, “Hands off.”

Jesus had an opinion about people who were unwelcoming to the disciples and unwilling to hear their words. In three of the four gospels (Matthew10:14, Mark6:11, and Luke 9:5), Jesus tells the disciples to abide with people who are welcoming of their words and their gifts. I like the Matthew passage where Jesus says, “As you enter a house, greet it and let your peace come upon it; but if the house is not welcoming to you, let your peace return to you.”

In our ministries, we want to exhibit the grace of God to all. We want to hear and value people. Yet, there are those who cannot hear us or value our giftedness. Rather than giving away all of our happy to them, we can sense where the peace is and if needed, walk away. Let our peace return to us. We are not called to be all things to all people. Jesus charged his disciples to abide in the places where there was welcoming peace. The next time you are in a situation where someone is determined to take all your happy, or you find yourself thinking, “I spend time with this person but she never offers happy back to me”, discern if this is a place of peace for you, a place where you feel welcomed. If there is no peace, there are two ways of handling it. You can declare, “Hands off my happy bucket” or you can “shake the dust off your feet.”

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.