“I will make you a community of peoples . . .” – Genesis 48:4
Now don’t laugh, those of you who know me – or even if you don’t know me but have taken a glance at the mug shot posted on my website – because what I want to talk about is barbershops. I love barbershops, the old-fashioned kind. I know! I know! You’re probably holding your sides with laughter already asking yourselves why Dan would ever need to darken the door of a barbershop with nothing but a little gray fuzz around the fringe. Well, believe it or not folks, once upon a time I had hair, a full head of it. Back in those days I really enjoyed going to the barbershop. Nowadays I just go to one of those places that’s like a fast food restaurant, put my name on the list, and inform the nameless “stylist” who happens to be available that I want a “number three, blocked in the back.” Wham-bam, in less than four minutes (I’ve timed it) I’m out of there.
That’s not the kind of experience I’m talking about. I liked the barbershop I went to when I was a kid growing up. My barber’s name was G. F. Givens, a man about my dad’s age or maybe a little older. Back then the barbershop was a gathering place for all sorts of characters, a place where there was a lot of chatter about local politics, the high school football team, weather, and some sort of combination of arguing and joking. My favorite trick was walking out of the barbershop without paying for my haircut complaining it wasn’t worth it. It was a trick to get old G. F. to chase me down the street, but he never did. He just stood there knowing I would come back with the $1.50 I owed clinched in my fist which he grabbed while handing me a piece of Double-Bubble Gum.
In his once popular book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum wrote a clever little essay about his relationship with his barber. “Once a month we reviewed the world and our lives and explored our positions,” he said. “We became mirrors, confidants, confessors, therapists, and companions in an odd sort of way. We went through being thirty years old and then forty. We discussed and argued and joked, but always with a certain thoughtful deference.” That’s the kind of barbershop I’m talking about. We could use more of those kinds of gathering places today; for God said, “I will make you a community of peoples.” And old fashioned barbershops were great places for that to happen.