Nathanael said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."
I go to get my hair cut and my stylist, “June,” seems either angry or sad. I can’t tell. All I know was that suddenly I am anxious about getting under her scissors. But she brightens up when I ask her for the haircut, style, and an eyebrow wax. It is opening night for a theatre gig. We have a nice chat about her children, the weather, and Michael Jackson. The important things in life. ;-) Then later, while she’s ripping away at my eyebrows, I ask her what was wrong.
Yes, I realize the lack of common sense in that.
Apparently, there is another woman who comes in periodically, but does not talk to June. She pokes her head in the door and if anyone but June is in there, she comes in. If it is just June, she leaves. So, right before I bounce in today, June is at the counter and this lady enters. “Can I help you?” June asks. At that moment, the woman yells passed her to a stylist in the back, “How long until you can do my hair?” and purposefully ignores June. If June talks directly to her for any reason, she doesn’t answer and says something to another stylist instead. I’ll don’t think she even knows June’s name.
So, I listen to all of this during the plucking of unseemly hairs from my forehead. I finally ask, “What did you do to her? Insult her mullet?” She laughs, then stops, then chokes up just a bit and says, “Oh, she’s just a sad woman; she’s had a sad life. And it’s … it’s … eh, it’s just because I’m black,” and shrugs her shoulders. Her colleague confirms.
You know, seriously, there are times when I think North American society has come a long way and there are times when, to quote Wayne and Garth, it still makes me want to hurl. That hadn’t even crossed my mind. Oh, but no pats on my back here. I’m certainly not immune to my own prejudice. I still remember actually being surprised that my high school friend Shelley “didn’t tell me” her best friend from Abilene was black. Looking back, I realize that it was the first time I had met someone who saw no colour. Thanks, Shelley.
So what will make a difference in our slow-to-learn society? I could pontificate. I could protest. I could quote MLK and Malcolm and Michael. But instead, I’ll let June teach me this lesson: The woman in question has entered their store too many times to count. Her attitude is snobbish, ignorant, and rude. She comes, she gets cut, and she typically leaves with someone hurting a little in her wake. But every single time she comes in the door, June swallows her pride, stands at the counter and says, “How can I help you?” That, my friends, is real impact.
I was in a choir in college. It was an all-black choir (except for me and one friend). They called us, “The Canadians.” We aren’t Canadian. Anyway, I get in my car today to drive home post-haircut and one of the songs we used to sing starts ringing in my ears. I hadn’t thought about it in years, but now it’s on continuous replay in my mind.
“Love can move mountains . . .
Love can calm the sea . . .
If I fight a good fight . . .
I’m telling you, love will save me.”
I hope June or somebody will love the prejudice out of her store’s customer. And now that I think of it, I’m a bit guilty to be so nasty with the name I was calling her in my head every time I mentioned her. Her name was . . . wait, I know it. June told me. Wow, I guess I need to learn too sometimes. I’m as slow as The Accused at learning what real love and tolerance are all about. But I do know some great teachers – and I’ll try to keep listening to their lessons as they see through my dazzling ignorance and ask me over and over, “How can I help you?” . . . without ever taking it out on my eyebrows.
"Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like."
Graham Nash once penned that the past is the past and one must truly have a code that they can live by. This code of kindness is what June teaches her children. What are you going to teach yours?