14 November 2018

Have you seen a worn-out grandmother?

Several years ago, I wrote a regular column for the JEANS section of 'The Nation'.  The editor of JEANS, Kusumanjalee Thilakarathna now handles the 'Littlestars' tabloid distributed with 'The Sunday Morning'. This is the fifth article for Littlestars.  Scroll down to find the full series of articles written for JEANS and the those of this new series.

‘Ever seen a worn out paperclip?’ That’s the title of an article which appeared in the Reader’s Digest about 40 years ago. Now ask yourself the same question. Have you seen a worn out paperclip? 


Well, we can twist a paperclip that’s in perfect order and make it useless for the purpose it was made. If you straighten it, then you won’t be able to use it to hold two or more pieces of paper together or to fix one or more pages to a file, for example. In short, it won’t be a paperclip any longer, would it?

It doesn’t mean that it’s useless of course. I’m sure you can find uses for a paperclip that’s been straightened out. Maybe that’s why you straightened it out in the first place, am I correct? 

It’s not a bad idea to take something and turn it into something else just so it can be used for some purpose you have in mind. Of course, if this means that a sheaf of important documents neatly held together might fly off in all directions, then it’s not good.  

This is not about paperclips, actually, worn out or otherwise. It’s about things we believe or are made to believe are worn out, useless, better to discard or throw away. Have you ever wondered about the usefulness of things? When you get a new something (shirt, dress, schoolbag, shoes or whatever) do you ask yourself, ‘do I really need it?’ Do you wonder if perhaps the old ‘something’ could be repaired? Or are you just happy that you’ve got a new ‘something’ that is as new as anything your friends have? 

I have a friend who lives in Jacksonville, Florida. That’s in the United States of America. Tony Courseault is his name. Let him tell his story:

‘I scour the free sections of four apps for sofas people are giving away. Then I message the owner when I find one that’s in fair condition. I set up a time to pick up, which is usually...immediately. After cleaning with my inexpensive portable carpet cleaner, I take pics from my tablet in the middle of the day, outside in my driveway. Next I place a simply worded ad describing the color, condition and dimensions.  Lastly I respond to interested buyers by scheduling a time for us to meet. Almost always they like what they see and pay cash. My desired turnaround from beginning to end is typically 3 days.’

Tony is making a good living because he knows that not everything that is thrown out is useless. It’s not about making bucks, though. It could be about saving money. Just ask yourself questions such as the following:

‘Have I ever seen a worn out safety pin? Why haven’t I seen any really, really, really, short pencils or crayons? Have I seen a tube of paint which has been twisted beyond recognition because someone was determined to squeeze out every last drop? Did I think of filling an empty yoghurt cap with some soil, toss a few seeds of chillie to see if something would come out of it? Isn’t it interesting that the leaves which a tree sheds can actually fertilize the soil the tree stands on and later offer nourishment to the same tree?  

Are grandparents ‘useless’ because they are old and weak or are they very rich because they know hundreds and hundreds of stories about hundreds and hundreds of things? Should you compare them to worn out paperclips? In short are there worn-out grandfathers and worn-out grandmothers?

Look around you. Maybe you’ll find lots of worn out things that you can actually put to good use. 

Articles for THE SUNDAY MORNING

Articles for THE NATION
A puddle is a canvas
Venus-Serena tied at love-all
Some jokes are not funny
There's an ant story waiting for you
And you can be a rainbow-maker
Trees are noble teachers
On cloudless nights the moon is a hole
Gulp down those hurtful words
A question is a boat, a jet, a space-ship or a heart
Quotes can take you far but they can also stop you
No one is weak
The fisherman in a black shirt
Let's celebrate Nelli and Nelliness
Ready for time travel?
Puddles look back at you, did you know?
What's the view like from your door?
The world is rearranged by silhouettes
How would you paint the sky?
It is cool to slosh around
You can compose your own music
Pebbles are amazing things
You can fly if you want to
The happiest days of our lives
So what do you want to do with the rain?
Still looking for that secret passage?
Maybe we should respect the dust we walk on
Numbers are beautiful 
There are libraries everywhere 
Collect something crazy
Fragments speak of a thousand stories 
The games you can and cannot play with rice
The magic of the road less-traveled
Have you ever thought of forgiving?
Wallflowers are pretty, aren't they?
What kind of friend do you want to be? 
Noticed the countless butterflies around you?
It's great to chase rainbows
In praise of 'lesser' creatures 
A mango is a book did you know?
Expressions are interesting things
How many pairs of eyes do you need?
So no one likes you?
There is magic in faraway lights
The thambilil-seller of Giriulla
When people won't listen, things will
Lessons of the seven-times table
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