Once a month we set up a salon at ROOTS Community Health Center as part of their Welcome Wednesday. We’ve been serving the unhoused and people living in poverty in this East Oakland community since August of 2018.
We offer haircuts, manicures, makeup services, as well as snacks, and hygiene kits. We’d also like to offer mental health services and art when we become more stabilized in our current offerings.
At our last event at ROOTS Community Health Center, a guest sat in my chair. He was about my age, thin in frame, and hadn’t showered or had nourishing food for awhile.
He said, “I was just walking by and saw that you were offering haircuts. I told myself, ‘You just have to get over your pride and get help.’ They (the staff at ROOTS) signed me up for Medicaid, I went to the pantry and got groceries, and here I am getting a haircut. My mom always told me the importance of proper hygiene.”
He began to cry, shoulders hunched over. “April was the anniversary of my mother dying in my arms. Then my birthday came, now Mother’s Day is coming. If I can just get through Mother’s Day, I’ll be fine.” I stopped cutting and listened as he let himself feel. The woman next to him receiving a haircut, rested her hand on his left shoulder and said, “You will be okay.“
He has a trade, just not able to find work. How can he when the basic needs are not being met. The cycle keeps going, before you know people retreat further into the shadows.
I said, “Your mother would be so proud of you, getting the support you need, and a haircut.” He responded, “Yes, she would be.“
We finished up his care with a hot towel. As he left, he yelled out, “Hey Rebecca, I feel great!“
This experience stayed with me. So I called ROOTS, and told them the story. I asked if they would have an event for Mother’s Day, maybe set up an art table and supplies for making Mother’s Day cards for those who have lost their mothers. Maybe a circle led by a therapist to bring closure to any loss they may be experiencing. She notified me that May 15 they would do so, and very much appreciated the idea.
It is the simple, humane offerings from our heart that bring peace and joy to people. To know we are not alone can help people to take the next steps in their lives.
Never underestimate the power of your kindness.