Haircuts that change lives
So I have to let you in on a lil secret....hairdressers (well, majority anyways) hate doing kids haircuts! It's nothing against the child. Each one really is gorgeous in their own way, but when that gorgeous wriggling monkey causes you to cut your finger the cuteness starts to wear off. Having mini heart attacks every time you think you're about to snip their ear doesn't help either.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this movement, (generally also combined with tears and a pressure to have the world’s most acrobatic haircut ever also completed faster than the speed of light), you then need to find peace in knowing that the haircut isn't perfect...settling with it looking 'presentable' because, well, that's all that is humanly possible under those circumstances. Not a lot of wins in the middle of that.
You can imagine my surprise then settling into doing the kids haircuts at Bukit Gloria in Indonesia. After months of building up to the idea of spending a week with these wriggling beauties I was prepared for any number of cuts and near misses. Instead, I experienced, patient, still, calm children. Where we were doing the hair cuts there was no air con, not even a fan. The children were sitting on a hard wooden chair, we had sweat running down our backs and every strand of hair that we snipped glued itself to our bodies...but yet, they sat still, uncomplaining. They did not move for as long as it took. They didn't show fear in any way, even with me being a stranger, one who couldn't speak their language, holding a sharp object moving around in their space. Even with there being no mirror to see what was happening they remained calm.
Anyone else feeling the same 'what the!?' as I was?
At the end of each haircut I would explain to them that a client of mine back in Australia paid for them to have their haircut. This little smile would grow across their face showing how touched they were by that thought. I went on to say that this person had also written them a note, letting fate decide which note went to which person by holding out a bag of them for the child to reach in and grab one out. I would explain the note to them. Tell them the name of the person who it was from and then watch as that smile settled in, becoming a twinkling in their eye. So beautiful watching them clutch the note when they found out they got to keep it. Such precious moments to witness. The positive power in such simplicity.
There was always a group of children watching on as others had their hair cut. Smiling: interested and observant, they each watched on patiently, moving out of my way whenever needed and never distracting the one having the haircut. Any parent out there with more than one child probably knows that this isn't how things normally go down in the salon.
You notice these things, behaviours that are foreign, and tuck them away to figure out later. It's an indication of their culture for sure, but what exactly is creating these sorts of results?
Working with the younger children was the first unusual experience. Next I found myself completely blown away by the experience of cutting one of the older teenage boy’s hair. This guy showed nothing but total trust in me and my ability. He translated the line 'can you please cut my hair however you think would look best for me' into English: wrote it out for me and then after handing the paper over he sat...without a hint of hesitancy. When I finished and he finally got to see in a mirror I have never had so many thank you's given to me. Over and over the words spilled out of his mouth with such sincerity you couldn't help but be touched. When my hand rested on the broom he immediately asked for it insisting he would clean up. The words were laced with the gravity that it was his honour to clean up for me, that it would be disrespectful to me to clean after I'd given him such a gift.
When was the last time you have, or you've seen, another react in the salon like that? In 15yrs I've never had that experience, not to that degree. To be completely honest with you his behaviour was so raw and pure that it brought tears to my eyes and rekindled a passion for what I do to a whole new level.
How could one experience create that for me?
Each night when we were back in the village at our host family's home we would set up salon out the front of the house. Women from the community would come over and politely ask if they could have their hair cut. No level of self importance or expectation, simply a gratefulness mixed with excitement. During the haircut most of the emotions that you see in the salon in Australia were there. The first period of uncertainty that the client is trying to hide while they are deciding if you are capable or if they are going to need to wear a bag over their head for the next month; the peace that comes over them when you start cutting and they can feel you know what you are doing; then, our favourite part, the smile at the end when they know not only have their initial fears not become a reality, that instead they love what you've done and feel amazing! (Have I mentioned lately that I love what I do? Just quietly, hairdressers live for that moment, for that smile, it's what fuels us!)
What happens next though is not what we always receive. There's a genuine ‘I feel really’ loved look that crosses their face. There's a hug...a real one. You are asked to pose for a photo with them, not because they want their life to look fabulous through the selfies of their experiences that they post to social media, they get the photo because they are connected to YOU, they want to cherish the moment and YOU as part of that moment.
There it is. The emotion you haven't quite understood before you can now touch. It's their value on human life. What they focus on as being important. They truly and freely LOVE. They respect and honour without barriers. They are grateful without selfishness. They hold the key to a happiness our culture only skims the surface of. Because of it, they have also got peace.
Then you realise you are so shaken because you have been living it wrong for so long, missing out on this freedom and purity. Missing out on this beautiful, genuine love...for yourself, and for the people you meet.
Here you are in the middle of the poorest situations that you have ever seen, situations that don't happen in Australia. There's no hot water in the house, you are showering with a hose, the toilets at the school are a squat hole in the ground that makes you compete for how long you can hold on, the houses are filled with only what's necessary to live and there are holes in the walls...but there's love. There's value for human life. There's care for a strangers emotions, even a stranger who can't speak a word of their language to know if you have anything in common or not, the love is there not because you've earnt it, but simply because you ARE.
In all honesty there were so many moments I considered what it would be like to stay. What it would be like to give up the things we hold as important back home and live daily in this love and acceptance. Anything I'd be giving up were just 'things', just items that made you feel more comfort or more self importance. Here though I could live with a few changes of clothes, a mattress to sleep on and simply just making sure I had the food I needed to eat. Beyond that I could just live WITH people. Valuing relationships, valuing time with others, caring for others emotions selflessly and remaining stripped of everything else that fills your normal life.
Here, you could feel happiness.
I went on this trip to bless others. The reality is though that I was the one who left blessed. Just one week submerged in their culture can touch you so deeply, I hope there's never a day when I don't question the things in my life that I'm valuing; challenging myself to really question and seek if they should have the power over me that they do. In this life there is only one thing to chase that can really bring you happiness. It's not money or what money can buy, it's not fame or recognition from others; it's not activities or experiences....it’s pure LOVE.
To the amazing people living out their lives in Bogor Indonesia, doing what may seem like nothing special, thank you, for all the million different angles of understanding within me that connected and had clarity on this trip. Thank you for teaching me YOUR beautiful way of life. Thank you for allowing me into your world, showing me what precious jewels I could bring back into mine. Your world is rich in a way I hope you always understand and appreciate.
All For Mary - Creative Director