We can’t do everything for ourselves

One of the things that I had to consider when I moved back to Aberdeen a few years ago was where I was going to get my hair cut. Since I was in the military, regular haircuts are mandatory and the style of haircut is not open to a great deal of personal expression.

So I needed to find a place that could give me a good “high and tight,” but I had no idea where that place might be. I found myself nostalgic for Scott’s Barbershop on the far end of Pierre Street for just the right haircut and a bonus straight razor neck shave with hot lather. It was perfect. I did not, however, want to drive 3 hours to get my haircut once a month.

I tried a few places in Aberdeen and finally ended up going quite often to a place called Adam and Eve’s and, to be honest, I was nervous when I went for the first time because it had been decades since I had my hair cut at a place that could be called a beauty salon.

I am used to the usual barber shop experience, red and white spinning pole out front, two chairs turned carefully away from the mirrors to face the others sitting and waiting, so we can talk sports and weather and avoid politics (although religion would come up; that’s an occupational hazard). On this day, I was surrounded by many differences.

There were women getting their hair dyed, and sitting under big bee hive looking dryers, curlers were laying around and I was, frankly, a bit nervous being, at the moment, the only gentleman in the room.

The haircut was quick and efficient and just right and I had forgotten how nice it was to actually watch my hair getting cut as the chairs, in salons, tend to face towards the mirrors. Then, at the end, a question was asked which I had not heard for decades: “Would you like to have a shampoo?”

I thought about it for about a millisecond and jumped out of my chair and followed the nice lady to the back where the funny sinks with the cut outs were located. I sat on the chair and was laid back, laying my head into the notch, and waited. She wet my military-short hair and shampooed, massaging my scalp with the suds and then rinsed. The whole thing took a few minutes, but for my money, it could have lasted the rest of the day.

I had forgotten what an exceptional feeling it was to have someone wash my hair. I told the lady I thought the shampoo should last at least as long as the haircut and she laughed, but I was serious. It was amazing. I had to wonder, I wash my own hair a great deal, but for some reason washing my own hair just does not afford the same sense of relaxation and peace.

In much the same way that I can massage my feet or rub a knot in a muscle in my leg, and that is fine, but to have a massage, someone else doing it makes all the difference. It is no longer just me working a muscle, it becomes an experience, and a darn nice one at that.

I have mentioned this to a few people and discovered I am not alone in this. While some people bristle at the thought of someone else washing their hair or massaging a muscle you did not even realize was in need of some attention, most find the experience highly enjoyable. It goes beyond the usual care and maintenance we give ourselves daily, it is a moment of caring for ourselves that transcends the usual.

And it must, by its nature, involve someone caring for us. Which is, I think, the value and the lesson. We tend to forget in our hurried lives, or in the spirituality we have received, the wisdom of Jesus in sending out the disciples in twos, in gathering a people to Himself, in giving us a community. We have a tendency to think that what matters in our lives are those things we achieve or manage on our own, and we can think about faith in that same way.

It is personal, private, and we can slowly lose the life and joy that can only come from being a part of a living community. In our personal lives, we begin to forget the need we have to be cared for by another, and the need we have to care for another in return. We simply cannot give these acts of care and love to ourselves; we can try, but it just will not be same.

As we stand in the glorious glow of Christ’s rising from the dead, as we prepare once again for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit from whom every community of love flows, we are invited to embrace the meaning of family, of friendship, of parish and of Church. Perhaps, in this embracing we can again find the courage to let others love us and care for us.

We might even remember how good it feels to be loved.

April 2018, Fr. Mike Griffin's Column