Haircuts For Hugs


joe the barber(via)

Not being homeless there are a lot of basic things I take for granted in life; like a hot shower, a bed to sleep in, a clean change of clothes, or a mailing address to use when I’m applying for a new job.

Another thing I can add to that list which, to be honest, never really crossed my mind before yesterday is a haircut.

A haircut is a pretty simple thing that I think a lot of us take for granted or perhaps even see as something of a luxury. But think about why you get a haircut in the first place. Is there some element of vanity is all of it? Sure, but try going several months or even years without getting your hair cut, let it get good and shaggy like it hasn’t seen a comb that entire time, then try applying for a new job and you’ll quickly see just how important that haircut really is.

But “proper” appearance for job interviews aside, a new haircut makes us feel good about ourselves, it gives us a sense of a fresh start, and for someone who may not have experienced either of those emotions in a long time, a hair can nothing short of a godsend.

Which is I was so happy when I stumbled across the story of Anthony Cymerys, or as he’s better known as “Joe the Barber.”

Cymerys is an 82 year old retired barber who got inspired by a sermon preached at his church many years ago.. For the past quarter of a century he has gathered together his barber supplies, grabbed a car battery to power his clippers, and setup his barber chair (a lawn chair) in the open air of Bushnell Park in Hartford, Connecticut.

Every Wednesday for the past quarter of a century he has cut hair. For free. For anyone who might need it.

All Cymerys asks in return is a hug so he show his “customers” that he loves them.

Now, I know it’s easy to be cynical about an old man handing out hugs in a public park, but frankly if that’s your response to this story you can take it somewhere else because I’m not interested.

What I am interested in is the sort of genuine love for neighbor it takes for someone to return week after week, year after year, decade after decade to serve their community, to offer a simple helping hand to those the rest of drive by and go out of our way to ignore.

Sure, this isn’t the traditional feeding of the hungry, giving the clothes off your back, or visiting someone in prison. What this is is a man looking at the gifts he has been given and finding a way to use them to serve others in need.

It’s a simple, but genuine act of selfless love.

It’s a holy haircut.

Over the next several months, probably longer, I’ll be going out of my way to highlight moments like these because they perfectly capture the sort of holy living I’m trying to describe in my upcoming book, The Scandal of Holiness (due this September). It is this sort of simple, but creative, boundary crossing love that I think perfectly captures the sort of holiness embodied by Jesus. It’s a more authentic version of holiness than the sort of legalism many of us have experienced. More importantly, it’s a form of holiness that not only can each of us actually live out, it’s one which we must live out if are really going to be followers of Jesus.

So, for the near future I want to highlight holy moments like these and I ask that if any of these moments cross your path, please share them with me.

Because as a church, we need examples like Joe the Barber to remind us what it looks like to be the holy people of God in an unholy world.

We need these reminders because the simple, but tragic reality is that there is something holier going on in Bushnell Park on Wednesday afternoons, than there is in many of our churches on Sunday mornings.

This must change.


Grace and peace,

Zack Hunt