Willie Spears


July 31, 2019

When Josh Gipson was a freshman in high school, he started cutting my hair. My schedule has always been hectic; one time he cut my hair while I was teaching health class.

It wasn’t hard for me to tie in personal hygiene and grooming into the lesson plan.

That was probably 2003 and here it is 2019 and he is still my barber. Whenever we moved away from my hometown, I had to find a new barber, it felt like I was being unfaithful to a girlfriend.

One time I could not get up with Josh, so I went to another barber shop and had someone else in our hometown cut my hair.

This new barber, Cliff, had a great personality and I coached his stepson, so we hit it off. He was very friendly and I could tell he was trying to get to know me so that I would be one of his clients.

I didn’t know how to tell him this was going to be a one-night stand, I mean a one-time thing. Josh was my barber; I just needed a haircut and Josh wasn’t available.

Two weeks later I went back to my normal routine with my normal barber, Josh. A few months go by and I walk in to see Josh, but the first person I see is Cliff. I am so confused.

Why is Cliff in this barbershop, then I realize he works here now. He greets me with a smile and thinks I am there for him to cut my hair. Josh says hello and it feels like I am busted, but I didn’t do anything wrong. That day I decided to grow my hair out and forego the haircut.

Some barbers are chameleons. I have sat and listened as the skilled artist with the clippers talked in depth with pastors, drug dealers, coaches, truck drivers, high school students, and politicians with seamless transition.

A barber wears many hats. I’m not talking about the one barber that has on a Dallas Cowboys hat when they win and an Atlanta Falcons hat when they win. The hats I am referring to are the hat of friend, counselor, advisor and therapist.

Of the close to fifty barber shops I have visited in my lifetime, almost all were considered African American barber shops although they did not feature all African American barbers.

According to the statistics African Americans need therapeutic sessions more than their counterparts.

African Americans are 20% more likely to have serious psychological distress than whites are.

Among men aged 18-44 who had daily feelings of anxiety or depression, non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic men (26.4 percent) were less likely than non-Hispanic White men (45.4 percent) to have used mental health treatments.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for African American males ages 15-24

African American men ages 20 to 24 have the highest suicide rate among African Americans of all ages, male and female.

African American teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than are white teenagers.

Young African Americans are much less likely than white youth to have used a mental health service in the year during which they seriously thought about or attempted suicide.

What can we learn from barbers? Sometimes our friends just need a listening ear. They don’t need us to say a word.

They just need us to listen as they vent, go off or put in their two cents. Sometimes we get so upset with our boss or spouse and we need to let that frustration out. It is unwise, unprofessional, and unbeneficial to communicate with your boss or spouse when you’re upset or angry.

I encourage you to be there for your friends with a listening ear, not an open mouth. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.

Willie Spears is a teacher, coach, author, minister and motivational speaker. He has been awarded teacher and coach of the year. He speaks to thousands each year through his business The Willie Spears Experience. Willie may be reached at www.williespears.com.

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