Paul Gingerich

Earlier this year, I lost a friend, a brother.  We actually both have the same last name—but I grew up in Oregon and he in Pennsylvania.  Yet we both married into the same family, just six months apart.  So, we are brother in-laws.  Paul was an eloquent wordsmith.  Last year, while challenged with life-threatening cancer, he wrote, “I have trouble with the thought of making a ‘Bucket List.’ This term projects the demise of one’s life and the desire to fill one’s life with hoped-for events before one ‘kicks the bucket’ and opportunities are lost.  A bucket invites a downward gaze, the focus of a ‘Ladder List’ directs one’s in an upward direction.”

You may have a bucket list.  But have you ever thought of a making a ladder list?  If Paul still had an earthly address, he would be the first person I would ask to be a guest blogger. I love his values, his writing, his witty humor and so much more.  In fact, Paul did some blogging for the famous Lehman’s Hardware store in tiny rural Kidron, Ohio where he taught high school for 30 years.

Here’s what my brother in-law Paul Gingerich said are the elements he would include on his ladder list:

  • Tangible acts of sacrifice for others

  • Supportive, relationally-focused activities that enhance family

  • Love for others

  • Generously giving life to those less fortunate

  • And…directing
 praise to God. 

Paul went on to write, “My Ladder List has a ‘bottom-up’ kind of focus.  It is open-ended and 
sacrificial. Its goal is to build up, restore and encourage.  I give
 credit to the Apostle Paul for this upside down, ladder list perspective
 on the future.  In Philippians 3:14, Paul highlights this inverted
 perspective. He says, ‘I press on toward the goal to win the prize for
 which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’  The focus is upward
 and there is movement. I’m going to start writing my ladder list and keep looking up!”
 Love To All, 
–Paul

We live in a world where we are taught to be self-sufficient, to seek and demand the best for ourselves.  But even before his cancer and transition to eternal life at age 59, Paul was climbing a different ladder than most career-focused men. Paul concentrated on serving others, supportive relationships and sharing generously.  His two and a half year journey with cancer allowed him to put into text something he was already living.  And for me–and thousands of others he has influenced–Paul challenged me to live for a ladder instead of a bucket.

QUESTION: What is on your Ladder List?  Please share it in the comment section below!

16 responses to Bucket List or Ladder List?

  1. Cynthia Bonavia on October 4, 2012 at 10:39 AM Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this story.

  2. david augsburger on October 3, 2012 at 1:43 PM Reply

    David Augsburger, (Uncle of both Paul and Dennis)

    I loved your ladder list blog, Dennis. My thought was that ladders go two ways, and the downward path of Jesus offers us a way of thinking, both of climbing up to higher planes, but of stepping down the rungs of service, identification, mutuality, co-humanity. And Paul was a challenge on all of the above.

    • Dennis Gingerich on October 8, 2012 at 5:47 PM Reply

      Thanks so much Uncle Dave! I love your image of the downward path of Jesus!

  3. Sandra on October 3, 2012 at 10:41 AM Reply

    I absolutely love the idea of the “ladder list” instead of the “bucket list”. I do have 3 main things on my “ladder list”. I would love the opportunity to do some sort of mission trip and have the chance to make a difference in someone’s life. I also would love to learn to play the piano and travel to Jerusalem and through Europe.

    • Dennis Gingerich on October 3, 2012 at 11:10 AM Reply

      Hi Sandra, Maybe you can get involved in children’s ministry @ Cape Christian and apply to go on the team to the orphanage to do Vacation Bible School in Haiti next year. And, just so you know, we’ve scheduled another trip to Israel for Dec. 26, 2013 through Jan. 4, 2014.

  4. Dorothy Mercado Ramos on October 3, 2012 at 9:27 AM Reply

    I remember you and Linda sharing this story. I changed all of my mom’s “bucket list” pictures to say “ladder list” as the ladder has us looking Heavenward.

    Like your brother in love Paul my focus is on serving others, supportive relationships and sharing generously all the incredible gifts God has blessed me with. Great blog Dennis! Miss you all!!

    • Dorothy Mercado Ramos on October 3, 2012 at 11:16 AM Reply

      Forgot to mention my biggest “Ladder list” To walk where Jesus walked. Be baptized in the same waters He was baptized in. Israel…my hope and my dream one day. 🙂

      • Dennis Gingerich on October 3, 2012 at 11:18 AM Reply

        Just received the brochures for our next trip to Israel, Dec. 26, 2013 through Jan. 4, 2014.

        • Dorothy Mercado Ramos on October 3, 2012 at 4:23 PM Reply

          I wouldn’t go with anyone else but my church!!! 🙂

        • Cindy Burke on October 7, 2012 at 8:39 AM Reply

          Paul’s ladder list is what I already have been striving to do in my life. Sacrificial giving of time , talent, treasure to those in need, often anonymously. I love the thought of a ladder list, and that is what Ada and Tony Hostetler did in their lives. Ada was always saying that she wanted to go UP (heavenward).
          Thank you for sharing Paul’s view, and could you please send me an Israel e-brochure? Thank you

  5. Chuck on October 3, 2012 at 9:27 AM Reply

    Being a young pup of 49, I never put much thought into a “bucket list”, or Paul’s aptly re-named, “ladder list” . Paul’s ladder list struck me as uniquely re-defining by nature, it is much more than just a new title, it is a new way of thinking. His list was not about what he was going to do in the future, it was about what he was going to do now, and how that would shape is destiny and ultimately his legacy. It truly was not about doing things for himself, as most “bucket lists” are, it was about doing for others with loving sacrifice and therefore honoring God. I think I will start my “ladder list” now.

  6. Kathy on October 3, 2012 at 8:53 AM Reply

    Great perspective…very though provoking. Thanks.

  7. Karen Johnson, Editor, Country Life on October 3, 2012 at 8:47 AM Reply

    This was a wonderful tribute to a gentleman. Although I started at Lehman’s after Paul’s writing time, I love reading his material too. It shows his sweetness, sense of humor and abiding faith. So many folks remember him so well. I regret that I never had the chance to do that. Thank you for starting my day this way–it reminds me what’s really important.

  8. Russ Winstead on October 3, 2012 at 8:13 AM Reply

    Well said! I too embrace the idea of a “ladder list”. It rings true in my spirit and is especially well fitted in relationship to our Christian faith. I was never entirely comfortable with the concept of a “bucket list”, however the “ladder list” is inspiring!

  9. Cynthia Chitwood on October 3, 2012 at 8:00 AM Reply

    What a living legacy of promise and hope to leave for family and friends. Love the ladder list perspective to life.

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