One of the blessings of living life in East Africa is the opportunity to repair the things in our own lives that are broken.
Our first home was a simple, rectangle of flesh-colored brick and thick shag carpets. It was a product of the 1960s in every way. By the time we acquired it the home needed a bit of work here and there. At first we made aesthetic changes, but soon realized that many of these changes were vanity for our own sake. They weren’t really necessary changes that improved or maintained the structure. We decided that the simple and cheap aesthetic changes were perfectly acceptable and that we would continue making them, but our investments would be in structural improvements and regular maintenance.
We converted a half-bath into a full bath. We dug up piles of stone and concrete out of the backyard and planted a garden. We repainted a dilapidated old shed to give it a few more years of life. We added a wall to create a third bedroom.
We liked our home, and we gained great satisfaction from the work invested. It reminded us of our ownership and responsibility. All of our appliances were second-hand. Most of our tools we purchased at yard sales or hand-me-downs from my dad and Grandpa Garner. We made many of these decisions in order to cut a few costs, but it lead us into some important life changes.
Our ironing board broke a few days ago. This is the second time for this particular ironing board. It’s a cheap imported Chinese board. The welds just haven’t held together well. If we still lived in America, I’m quite sure we would have rushed down to the nearest store and purchased a brand new ironing board. But there are no ironing boards for sale in our town. Instead, we’d have to make a several hour drive to the capital to make a purchase. So we opted (for the second time) to weld it back together.
The weld isn’t the prettiest of things, but who puts their ironing board on display when company comes over? The weld gave new life to our old board and to us. It was a small, yet important moment continuing to instill within us that a life of repair and grace is a good one.
Folks have berated the disposable nature of the typical American life for quite some time, so I won’t belabor the point. Instead, I wanted to share a reinforcing moment in our own transformation: Today we repaired rather than replaced.
We will still purchase new things from time to time. But we will also continue to look for ways to repurpose and responsibly use the things discarded by the world. We hope that our ironing board will do as much for you as it did for us. Well, it’ll probably still do more for us unless you’re coming over with some wrinkled clothes.