Standing in a small wood working shed, surrounded by the sweet smell of sawdust, I look down and see old floor boards speckled with a rainbow of paint colors. Splashed on the floor in the final stages of lawn chair build, after lawn chair build. The final touches, and unexpected and welcomed art.
The floor is in a workshop in Martin’s River, Nova Scotia. The owner of the workshop is Mr. John Critchell. Some of you reading this may know John or most certainly have heard me mention him before.
John will turn 91 this March. He works tirelessly throughout the year to craft wooden lawn chairs and birdhouses which he places near the road in front of his home during tourist season. He usually sells out of all of his stock by fall. Last year he crafted 74 chairs over the winter months, and that was just the start.
I met John many years ago when I was working at a grocery store and he would come through my check-out line. I instantly knew that he was a kind soul with a good heart. He used to write cheques, back when we were allowed to accept them. I remembered how so many customers complained when we stopped but how John was happy to adopt a new way of paying and after I offered some options to him he came in one day with his new debit card. Never one to complain and eager to learn a new way.
After my time as a grocery clerk came to an end I stayed in touch with John – we were instant kindred spirits.
At the time John and I both lived in Halifax and I was sad to see him leave the city and move to Martin’s River where he would be closer to his family. I stopped in to see him one day and any sadness of his departure dissipated when I saw his lovely new home and the set up he had for creating all of his hand crafted furniture.
John wrote a short self-published book about his life for his family not long ago and I was honored to be gifted with a copy. Born in 1927 in Newfoundland his life story offers explanation for his keen work ethic. Starting work at a very early age to provide for his family and joining the Merchant Marines at the too-young age of 15 he was never a stranger to hard work.
One of the things that John shared in his book, and what has made the reason for his positive attitude so clear to me was a short prayer titled “For Today" which he reads every morning. Below is a line from that prayer:
“Open wide the eye of my soul that I may see the good in all things”
How can one not be grateful and positive if starting the day with these words? John’s approach and attitude inspires me.
This past fall John’s sweet wood working shed burned down. With it went the floors with the splashes of paint and unexpected art. Thankfully, insurance covered the cost of replacing the shed and its contents. When I stopped in recently he had already rebuilt the shed – now a beautiful new and more spacious building. He has restocked it with all the tools he will need to continue to build his furniture over the winter for sale in the spring. He was setting up his space with all the eagerness and intention to continue building until he turns 100 and beyond. I think he will do just that.
I don’t have to ask the secret to his longevity. I believe it is his grateful heart and positivity. John would tell you the key is in keeping busy. It is most surely all three.