The art of repurposing lives


By Christina Ryan Claypool - Contributing Columnist



When I was a little girl, I didn’t realize my family had financial struggles, because my late mother had an artistic ability to make everything beautiful.

For instance, once with her half-dozen children loaded in her old car, she spied a treasure in the trash about a block from our home. Mom gasped with pleasure at the sighting, but I was sure the old bookshelf had seen better days. Not to be denied, she marched up to the front door of that house and asked the elderly female owner if she could have the bookcase.

The dark wood was heavily marred with scratches, and it didn’t look like much of a prize. In those days, Old English furniture polish was the standard cure for distressed furniture, so Mom doused the entire shelf in the dark liquid. Almost magically, it seemed to breathe new life into the discarded antique.

When the wood dried, she found a lace dolly that covered the deep gouges on top, and then filled the shelves with books and glassware. Even though I had seen her do it countless times, once more this resourceful woman created something of beauty out of second-hand junk.

Back then, we didn’t use terms like: repurpose, refresh, restore, or reinvent. There was no category of household items or furniture known as Shabby Chic or vintage, or stores filled with repurposed products. If something was used, it was simply that, “used.” It was to be looked down upon, rejected, or devalued.

Thankfully, my mother’s lesson about reclaiming the vitality of a cast-off item stayed with me. That’s why not long ago, when I found a large rhinestone and silver-plated key at a church sale, I had to buy it.

I had no idea what to do with the sparkling key, but then I happened upon a necklace that had lost its own pendant. The key fit perfectly on the long silver chain, but it still seemed incomplete. I added a few more gems including: a miniature heart with a mustard seed, and a silver charm from a broken bracelet engraved with the words from Scripture, “If you have faith so small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

As for restoring the impossible, it’s important to remember that the art of repurposing isn’t just about old furniture or broken jewelry. Instead it is also about putting back together the pieces of people’s lives that have been shattered by addiction. Sometimes, it’s easy to look at individuals making poor choices, and to believe they are past societal or even spiritual redemption.

Addiction is complicated, whether its heroin, prescription painkillers, countless other drugs, or even alcohol. Since the battle with heroin began, many folks have forgotten that although alcohol consumption is legal, it can still be a dangerous substance if abused. For example, alcohol remains a contributing factor in divorce, domestic violence, traffic accidents/fatalities, and in 40 percent of violent crimes.

Whatever the addiction, we can cast off these struggling human beings and offer them and their loved ones little hope for restoration. But that’s not the way recovery works. Even the most lost and hopeless of cases, can turn into the greatest advocates for change when provided with a fresh start.

Yet this is not a rose-tinted philosophy requiring little effort. Increased funding will have to be continually allocated to addiction and mental health issues, along with ongoing education to know how to better serve this at-risk population. Long-term affordable treatment centers will be necessary, and more family support networks will have to be established. Twelve step recovery and faith groups will need to be utilized, but prevention among the young will be key.

In this recovery fight, there are those on the frontlines who deserve our gratitude for their dedication. Mental health professionals, law enforcement officers, court system employees, first responders, and medical personnel who are daily confronted with the first step in the plan to save lives. Also, 12-step leaders and courageous recovering addicts who share their powerful testimonies in hopes of preventing others from walking the treacherous path of addiction.

My mother also taught me another lesson. When you don’t know what to do, do something. So I’m writing this column, hopeful that keeping the conversation going is a way to fight back. For now, may we all take “one day at a time,” and work together to find solutions by rejecting apathy, and refusing to give up.

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By Christina Ryan Claypool

Contributing Columnist

Christina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

Christina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

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