A New Lease of Life

“It’s terrible when you feel you’re no use anymore,” confided Ethel, an elderly widow. “I used to help many people, and now it’s me who needs their help. I find it so hard to listen, even with my hearing aids in, and here I am walking with a stick…”

 I hope I’m as sprightly as Ethel when I get to her age, but what’s it like to consider yourself on the scrapheap? Let me tell you about some furniture I ‘Freecycled’ last week.


Charity Shop Number 1: “I’m sorry, sir, our customers generally expect chairs in smarter condition than these…” I looked fondly at the item in my hand, imagining its tears at receiving such a rude snub. Ruefully, I had to admit it was true. 

Charity Shop Number 2: “Just look around, sir. We’re up to our eyeballs in chairs already.” Again, it was true.

Charity Shop Number 3: “Let me stop you there.” (Don’t you just HATE that phrase!) Do these chairs have fire labels?” I looked disconsolately at the tiny patch of fabric that covered the seats. I doubt fire labels would have been invented when they were made. The guy gave a shrug of resignation; “I’m sorry sir, but that’s how the rules are nowadays.”

So, were these finely crafted chairs destined for a bonfire? In desperation I placed an offer on Freecycle.

‘Four sturdy chairs awaiting a new owner who will sand them down and lovingly repaint them’.

 Somebody responded, ‘Are these still available?’ I gave my details but there was no reply. They didn’t follow it up.


They weren’t even my chairs. I volunteer on a Wednesday for a community centre called The Space. Here I have acquired an unlikely niche as a tidier-upper of cupboards and store rooms to make…SPACE! It’s a wonderful, friendly local hub that provides lots of activities for the people of the estate round about, but there’s nowhere to put the mountain of stuff that gets donated by the bucketful. The chairs were in a ‘general storage area’ where all sorts are placed waiting for a rainy day. Our manager encouraged me to put them aside for somebody to dispose of. After doing so, then finding them back in the same place for the third time, Something Had To Be Done. I brought them home where they sat in our garage, making it just as congested as The Space had been.  

The Space has a hoard of books and DVD’s, all sitting in cardboard boxes or in those ‘bags for life’ you get at the supermarket. One Wednesday, before going there, I called at Charity Shop No.1 to look for a bookcase. Eureka! They’d got just the item we needed. So after I’d done my half day’s work, our manager gave me £10 to go to buy it. But – where was it? Sold!

The other two charity shops hadn’t a suitable one. Once again I resorted to Freecycle. A nice one had been offered, but the owner said somebody else had already asked to have it. If they didn’t collect it, she’d let me know…Would there be no end to this cycle of frustration?


As luck would have it, nobody came for the bookcase, so it was offered to me. I drove over the moors beyond Huddersfield to collect my prize. The elderly lady owner was delighted it would be housing children’s books at a centre. And – Yay! – somebody else enquired about the chairs. Off they went yesterday morning to a good home, leaving our garage accessible once again and the chairs looking forward to being upcycled.


Have you ever felt you were destined for the timber skip or the bonfire? Too old, like Ethel? Suffering from health problems? Or just not good enough? I told God that was how I was feeling at the beginning of 2020. I’d just finished work, and also had had to abandon a book project I’d worked on for a lady in Leeds. It wasn’t long before God put me to use again, using my former  and writing skills. I coordinated the brochure we had to create to attract a new vicar to our benefice, and – later – helped our friend Sally to write her story, ‘The Thrill of the Ride’.

In his wonderful book, ‘How to Hear God’, Pete Grieg tells the story of young French soldier Nicolas Herman (1614-91). After an injury put an end to his fighting days, he became a footman. But he was too clumsy, ‘a great, awkward fellow who broke everything’. Feeling utterly useless, he entered a monastery as a servant, but due to his injured leg he wasn’t suited to kitchen work or cleaning. Finally they sent him to the cobbler’s workshop where he learnt to make and repair sandals. And here he blossomed, as his life became an unbroken conversation with God. As he ‘practiced the presence of Christ’, a continual stream of people came to the cobbler’s hut to seek the wisdom of ‘Brother Lawrence’ as he became known.

Ethel ended this morning’s conversation by telling me that she knows she isn’t useless to God. “As other people help me, I know God encourages them.” I compared her with Brother Lawrence and said – truthfully – that I felt everyone who spent time with her, too, would feel blessed and encouraged.

St Paul told us, ‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ (Ephesians 2 vs 10)

No-one is excluded, and there’s no age limit.

10 thoughts on “A New Lease of Life

  1. Love this John. Thank you.

    I had a conversation with a special friend recently who is frustrated by health limitations. This is what came to me: We know the Word says it is more blessed to give than to receive. But I, along with this person & others I know, find it more difficult to receive than to give. When we give we’re storing up treasure in heaven. So consider this: when we allow someone to give to us we’re helping them to add to their heavenly bank account & we know that our Father has the best interest rates ever!!

    Wonder what you think about this?




    1. Try again: Thank you, Ann. I learnt a lot from my mum, who died a year ago this evening, and from our friend Betty Deeks who died in August. Both these ladies had had to learn to receive, when they could do so little to give. Betty used to say she was ‘more than a conqueror’ because she sought to find a way of sharing Jesus with those who cared for her.


  2. Wow, such lovely anecdotes. And of course I can relate to the Freecycle ones very much!! Amazing about Br Lawrence – I hadn’t heard that story.


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