It all started for me last year; falling in love at first sight, with a place, organization, and those forgotten. A friend of mine, invited me to come volunteer at CareCuts of Knoxville. At the time, I didn’t quite know all of the details, but I knew I wanted to be a part of something truly hands on, changing lives of those in need.
I pulled up to the parking lot, at the address I was given, and was astounded at what I saw. There were so many people, in the hundreds, needing help. They were all either sitting down, waiting, or up and about, mingling with others. I did what I always try to do, when I go to a place, mingle, and make friends.
I walked inside, and was told to give my name, so I could get a name tag, and be assigned a voluntary position. The kind gentleman at the table, wrote my name with a sharpie, and told me I would be a hair washer. I remember
feeling so nervous, headed towards the salon, thinking, “what if I don’t do a good enough job, and make them happy? I am not a professional?” Those thoughts went out of the window, as we came together for a group prayer, and a briefing, on how everything works, and then dispersed to our stations. Two young girls were put at the stations next to me, and I had a sigh of relief, thinking, if our youth can do this, I’ll be perfectly fine!
After being fed, given clothing, and other necessities outdoors, people are lined up, and called in one by one for services. My first person, sat down, and we exchanged smiles. I proceeded to wash their hair and converse with them. “Is the water too hot? Let me know if I am hurting you?” They replied, “this feels great, I love it.” It made me feel really, really, awesome! I couldn’t believe that washing ones hair, could make such an impact with the person receiving the service, and also within my heart. I couldn’t stop smiling!
I kept going, one after the other, and listening, and speaking to each person. I imagined if it was me. I know that they could be me, and I could be them. I’d want someone to love me, and do this for me too.
I looked over at all of the hairstylist, and barbers, who were smiling, and enjoying the time with each of their clients. They knew each other, like family. The smiles were even bigger, than after their hair being washed! Honestly, in that moment, I wished I was a hairstylist, so I could help do that job, LOL!
When the stylist finished their hair; some also getting a fresh manicure, they walked over to the photographer, snapping before and after pictures. They looked like a new person on the outside, but the person within had exuberant confidence, hope, and sparkle! As they walked to the door, to make their exit, I wondered if the smile would change by nightfall, the next day, the next hour, as we could only do this once a month. It really saddened me.
The next month, I was ready to come back to experience this again! I learned that on Saturday, you can drop off items for the less fortunate. I checked to see what was needed, then went to SAM’s Club to buy toilet paper and paper towels in the bulk. When I showed up to drop them off, you wouldn’t believe how I was received. The love, the group asking to take pictures, and thanking me. In my head I kept saying, “it’s just paper towels, and toilet paper?” It’s not money, it’s not anything special to me, but wow, they made me feel like I brought a million bucks to drop off. Even more, I knew they really needed help, and they appreciated it to a level I hadn’t experienced.
When you volunteer a few times, you get to know the volunteers, and even more important, those you are helping. I love getting to know a person’s spirit, and hearing their stories, to see what I can do, to make their lives better. We can always do something, be it big or small!
Some find it hard, to help a cause, or organization they do not connect with. I can connect, because this is a social issue, mixed in, with the others I advocate for; especially addiction. I also know that neither is discriminatory, in who it can effect. I deeply feel that many of us, who are privileged to have a roof over our heads, a meal every night, clean clothing, a job, a family to always fall back on, and love don’t understand how this could happen. It’s as if, we can’t see a person as a human being anymore, if they don’t have the same standards deemed of a certain social class.
In seventh grade, I remember learning about the Holocaust for the first time, and my teacher sharing a video about it. She skipped so much of it, because of the content. At the end of the class, I walked up to her, and asked could I borrow the video, to take home and watch it all? She of course let me take it home, as long as I promised my parents would watch along with me. I remember after watching the documentary, feeling so shocked, and in tears, that people could treat humans like animals, or generalize an entire group, nonetheless. Later, I watched “Schindler’s List,” and it really, to this day, is one of my most favorite movies. This is a black and white film, but there are a few scenes, where a little girl is focused on, in a red coat; she is the only one in color.
I remember seeing this little girl, and thinking, “she’s so pretty, why don’t they see that?” They show her a few times, and later, you see her jacket, on top of a pile of other clothing; insinuating her death. This image is shown, to humanize her and for the audience to identify with her. You recognize that she is a person, a child; it makes you sympathize.
I had my own moment of this same scenario, that stopped me dead in my tracks. At Carecuts, I sat with a homeless woman, and spoke to her a while before she got her hair washed. The next day, I drove down the street a couple of blocks away, and I saw her again walking in the same clothing. Knowing she didn’t have anywhere to go, and that I couldn’t do anything to put her in a home at the moment, I felt sad. It was a different feeling, because I wouldn’t have focused on her, in a deep fashion, had I not interacted with her a few days prior.
A couple of days later, I had a meeting, with my friend Marti. As we opened the doors, I saw her, again, out of all people who could have been sitting in the entrance. We were meeting with our community leaders, to discuss ways we could help with those slipping through the cracks, in our system, and other topics. She was my sign; she was my little girl in the red coat. I want to help this organization, with it’s leaders, to make their lives better, and prevent this problem from growing even bigger.
CareCuts is a ministry, where volunteers come together, to provide grooming, food, love, and dignity to those in need. We do this every first weekend of the month. It is beautiful, to watch our community bless others, and help many get back on their feet, with what we all can afford to provide; kindness, and love. We invite everyone to be a part of this life changing organization! I promise, you will see immediately, how much you are needed in the world.
Even if you don’t know what you can contribute, God does. Maybe you are there to do a service, maybe you are there to be a friend, a mentor, or even to save a life. I have seen it all, each time I step foot on this property.
To donate, please visit carecutsknox.org !