What is this, 1965?
I went in to get my hair cut yesterday and my hairstylist (we’ll call her “June”) seemed either angry or sad. I couldn’t tell. All I know was that I was a little afraid to get under her scissors. But she brightened up when we started talking and I asked for the haircut, tea tree treatment and a badly needed eyebrow wax. So while she was gently ripping away at my eye area, I listened as she and her colleague talked about the lady who had just walked out.
Apparently, this woman (we’ll call her “Beelzebubbette”) comes in periodically, but does not talk to my hairstylist. She’ll poke her head in the door and if anyone but June is in there, she’ll come in. If it’s just June, she will leave. Right before I bounced in, they had had quite an experience with Beelzebubbette. June was at the counter once and Beelzebubbette came in. “Can I help you?” she asks. At that moment, Beelzebubbette yells to June’s colleague who is in the back, “So, how long until you can do my hair?” and purposefully ignores June. Her husband does the same. They will sit there with another stylist and if June talks directly to them for any reason, they will not answer or will say something to their immediate stylist.
So, I’m hearing all of this during the plucking of unseemly hairs on my forehead. I finally said jokingly, “What could you have possibly done to warrant that?” thinking I was about to hear a story about a bad hair colouring experience with poor June. She laughed, then stopped, then choked up just a little and said, “It’s because I’m black.” Her colleague confirmed.
You know, seriously, there are times when I think North American society has come a long way and there are times when . . . well, not so much. That hadn’t even crossed my mind. Really. Well, not this time. Oh, but I know I’m not immune. I still remember actually being surprised that my high school friend Shelley “didn’t tell me” her best friend from Abilene was black (hey, I know where I grew up and what I heard all the time). But you know, looking back, I realize that it was the first time I had met someone outside my immediate family who "saw no colour" at all. And it stayed with me in so many ways. Thanks Shelley Morrow.
As for Beelzebubbette, that attitude is just plain evil. So what will make a difference, in our slow-to-learn society? Well, I could pontificate. But instead, I’ll let Jesus and June teach me a lesson. Beelzebubbette has entered the store too many times to count. Her attitude is snobbish, ignorant, and rude. She comes in, she gets cut, she leaves, and goes away 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, smiles and says, “How can I help you?”
“If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone
takes your cloak, give to him your tunic as well.” (Luke 6:29)
I was in a choir one year in college. It was an all-black choir (except for me and my friend Julie Overstreet). Not that you needed to know that, but the mental image is pretty funny, isn’t it? Anyway, post-haircut I got in my car to drive toward the theatre and one of the scripture gospel-songs we used to sing rang in my ears.
“Love can move mountains . . . Love can calm the sea . . .”
I hope June or Jesus or somebody will love the prejudice out of Beelzebubbette. And now that I think of it, I’m truly sorry to be so mean with her name. I guess I need to learn too sometimes. I’m as slow as the accused at learning what real love is. But I do know my teacher – and I’ll try to keep listening as he lovingly stands at the counter and has to patiently ask me over and over, “How can I help you?”