HAIRCUT – LESSONS LEARNED

By John T. Bird

I have cried three times in the barber chair: my first haircut at the age of two, when they shaved my head in Marine Corps Basic Training, and today. The first two times were from fear; today was sparked by joy.

The same person has cut my hair for about 30 years. She is a refugee from Viet Nam who came to America in 1980. Today, she told me she had something special for me to read while getting my hair cut. I was thinking Sports Illustrated or Popular Mechanics. Instead, she handed me a 4 page essay she recently wrote, telling the story of her family’s assimilation into American life. As I read it and saw the full story of what it was like for a family of 12 children and two parents who fled Communist-controlled Viet Nam to settle in rural Kansas, where they all learned English, took menial jobs to support their large family, and embarked on the path to citizenship, it came home to me how fortunate we are in this country. I wish I could post a copy of it so you could see how proud she is of what her family accomplished, against great obstacles. I wish I could speak as eloquently as she does in describing how proud she and her siblings and parents were when they took their oath of citizenship. I would like to be able to show you what our country looks like to someone who truly appreciates the ideas of freedom and liberty and being part of a mutual effort to do good for each other.

She was so proud to show me what she wrote and then she told me that she had spoken to the entire 7th Grade at the Middle School, to tell them her story, and they gave her a standing ovation. What an amazing thing: to go from huddling in the bottom of a leaky boat on the China Sea, eating soup made from sea water, to owning two businesses, sending two sons to Kansas University, and speaking to a hundred students in Haysamerica about the path to citizenship in America.

It was the best haircut I’ve ever had.