St Bride's: Sermon Series

From the Heart

From the Heart

Charles Christie-Webb
Estate Agent

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I count myself extremely lucky. I'm surrounded by wonderful people. I meet amazing people every day not to mention my talented and colourful relatives. My friends, even my wife, think I joke when I say I'm not clever. Yet the truth of it is, whenever I rely on my brain to find solutions, things always go horribly wrong.

I've learnt to trust my heart.

My career started 30 years ago as a mortgage-broker. I met rather grey, bored estate agents as part of my work, but when my landlord came to sell, I got to see them in action. I have to say I was far from impressed. And so, watching this sad uninterested process going on, I felt an almost overwhelming desire to take over and do their job for them! I think they'd forgotten - or maybe never realized - that customers aren't looking for a house! They're HOPING FOR A HOME! "Foxes have holes, birds-of-the-air have nests, and human beings, unless they're utterly exceptional, need their own home where they can be themselves and rest their head.

I applied for a job as an estate agent. Whilst I was immensely grateful to my employer for my in-house training, I couldn't help feeling opposed to his rather jaundiced view of human nature. Each day I was being given intricate lessons in how not to trust people and yet my experience was proving quite the opposite.

I discovered rather quickly that there isn't really a right way of doing the job, but there are plenty of ways to do it wrong. Trust is everything, and if people don't trust you, then nothing happens. To gain people's trust you have to make the first move - by trusting them. 

I soon had the urge to go my own way and run my own agency. I hadn't much money and couldn't afford a conventional building, so I bought a double-decker bus and parked it on a tiny plot of land in the centre of Camden Town. It's a quirky office in a quirky part of London and I've made the most it by preserving the original 1940's interior. There is something very lovely and nostalgic and adventurous about beginning the journey towards a new home in a London bus. The first thing people do when they step onboard is smile -  always a good start.   

Towards the end of the nineties it seemed clear that the internet would play a major part in our industry. There was a transparency about it which I liked. Anyone could log-on and see exactly how many houses were for sale and even monitor an agent's performance by re-visiting their website. It was little wonder why estate agents resisted this change. For me, it was a fabulous opportunity to broadcast my local expertise and openness yet at the same time making no apology for being a small company. Within a couple of years most of my competitors had made the transition and also had effective websites, but it'd given me sufficient time to get ahead and establish my company as one of the main players in Camden.

Throughout the years, decades in fact, I've relied heavily on the love and trust of my best friend Gary - who I employ. I have no doubt I am dyslexic but Gary, is in fact, numerically-dyslexic. It sounds like a recipe for disaster doesn't it? Actually it isn't -like so many things in life which appear to be a disadvantage, our weaknesses are our strength, We've learnt to over-compensate. We both try harder because we know we have to. But I have to say there's never one big thing I achieve in any working day. It's made up of little things, things I guess anyone could do providing they want to keep very busy.

This is why I count myself lucky. I have tremendous people around and I've been on this journey in an old London bus and it's taken me nowhere - and everywhere!

I've followed my gut and my heart that God gave me - and it was good.

My world is very small; let's face it, it's tiny. It consists of 200 streets, so I often feel cocooned in a very safe, and I think to a degree, very selfish position. My wife on the other hand, spends her working life ending violence against women and girls through international organisations and touches the lives of people on a global scale. Her world is massive. It's all rather humbling and more so when I realise I've left it half-a-century to start the most important journey of my life.

I pulled the bible off the shelf (and dusted it down).  A note fell out in my grandmother's handwriting. I'll read it.

"Dear Charles, You said you seldom read a book. This is a most inspiring book to dip into. You may leave on the shelf unread for many years, so decided the large print appropriate. God bless. Grandma."

Overwhelmed by the number of pages (there's an awful lot) the more I read the more I could relate to how my Grandmother lived her life and how Christ was always at the heart of it. Of all my colourful and exciting relatives who can make claim to fame, my grandmother was a very humble person who consistently expressed her love for us all by doing small things - an awful lot of small things. I know my sisters and my cousins would agree, our lives were made richer by what she did for us and also by way of example. What made her truly remarkable was her unfaltering consistency.

St Luke tells us that the little things are just as important as the big things. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

Even psychologists suggest that the way we do one thing is how we do all. But what I find important is it makes perfect sense to ask Jesus to help with the small things because - to other people - they may not be so small. In fact, as I've discovered at work, to them, they could be really big.

The Apostle Peter tells us Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt you in due time. Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.

Having ignored God from most of my life I'd like to think I can make up for lost time by achieving something big. I think self-pride has a lot to do with that too. But I now see, thinking that way is where it would all go terribly wrong. Perhaps God has great things for us to achieve in time, perhaps he doesn't, but what's important is to have complete trust in His plan for us and include Christ in every aspect of our life. And, as our normal jobs and careers take up so much of our time, then it's absolutely essential to have faith in the workplace.

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