How many times has your life been repurposed? Alexandra Kuykendall normalizes this reality for us.
By Alexandra Kuykendall
This week I sat in my car, stopped at an intersection, just six blocks from my house, where I have waited for a red light to turn green THOUSANDS OF TIMES.
How had I never noticed it? A pay phone. With a phone book hanging from it. A relic of decades gone. If ever there was a symbol of a purpose come and gone, this was it.
Surely the phone wasn’t new. Pay phones aren’t being installed around town these days. Plus the weeds at the base and the run-down nature of all of it made me know it had been there all of these years and I’d just looked past it.
As I sat at the red light, I couldn’t help but think of the podcast episode that went up this week titled “Identity Crisis: What happens when your purpose shifts?” I felt a sudden sadness for this pay phone.
It represented what so many of us often feel: we’re outdated and no longer relevant, needed, or even functioning.
I’ve been thinking of that phone for the last few days and last night on my #Walktober walk around the neighborhood, I made my way over to see it. My route took me through the property between my house and that intersection, a mixed-use development of housing, shops, and gardens that are on the land that was once Denver’s premier amusement park. I realized this whole plot of land, acres big, had been repurposed. Its purpose had shifted!
I walked under the structure that once covered the carousel. There was a wedding there just last weekend. Over the years this open-air cover has served our family as a shelter for kids riding bikes and homecoming pictures and a labyrinth for meditation. What it was originally built to cover is now gone. But today it serves different, yet still joyful, purposes.
Suddenly I was seeing repurposing all around me. The restaurant with twinkly lights over the patio is new to the neighborhood. That space has been repurposed at least four times in the 15 years I’ve lived in my home. There have been bittersweet endings to beloved businesses and new ones have always sprung up.
When a purpose ends, it makes room for a new one to have a place.
As I continued my walk, I realized even what I was wearing was almost 100% repurposed. A hat I found in our family's hat box that I suspect was left at our house by our exchange student, a fuzzy jacket handed down to me by my cousin, jeans from the thrift store, and a shirt from the costume box at work (I wish I was joking.) I love repurposing clothes because I love giving new things life.
This is the same reason I love old houses, historic neighborhoods, and inherited treasures. The melding of the original purpose and use with the new need feels redemptive.
God makes all things new after all. He takes our grief, our losses, our disappointments and our endings and he blows in new life with a different or modified purpose. An ending is also always a beginning.
Back to the pay phone. I wondered how that could be redeemed. Honestly, historic was the most honoring word I could think of to describe this lonely phone on the corner, but pathetic was the most honest. Except that pay phone has given this 49-year-old woman pause. It has brought me reflection and thoughts and a visual for what I don’t want to become. I guess in my life that pay phone has served more purpose in the last week than it ever has before. God really can use everything for his glory.
My walk last night reminded me that repurposing is about giving things, and people, new life. When purpose shifts, it doesn’t have to be all bad. In fact, it can be quite good. If God can use a broken pay phone for his purposes, I’m going to trust he can also use me.
Alexandra Kuykendall calls herself a “kitchen anthropologist.” She stands in her kitchen and tries to make sense of the world around her. From family life to the news headlines, she’s looking for where the good news of God’s grace and the reality of life here on earth intersect. Alex is the author of 5 books, including Seeking Out Goodness, Loving My Actual Neighbor, Loving My Actual Life, Loving My Actual Christmas, and The Artist’s Daughter. She co-hosts Our Time to Rise podcast, and co-leads The Open Door Sisterhood with Krista Gilbert. She also works with Project 1:27 as director of the national network and new development. She connects leaders and churches to local child welfare needs. Alex and her husband, Derek, have four daughters.