Beauty School at Shear Love International has been in session for almost 6 weeks and what a ride it’s been! Watching my students grow and stretch and challenging themselves has been such an amazing thing to watch.
Having little time to process all that’s really happened, I have found myself both physically and emotionally exhausted. Everyday I get to school a little before 8am to prepare for the day. Responding to emails from potential guest educators, scheduling Skype interviews, and printing worksheets for the days lecture. At 10am school begins. Half the students are there already and have been for quite some time with their notebook open and ready for class. The rest are usually jumping off still moving motorcycle taxis at 9:59 and racing in the door before I give them a stern, yet completely harmless and totally pathetic, look of disappointment. I then lecture on hair color, or the reason Cleopatra wore black eyeliner, or the importance of saving money, or sex education, or why you should take a bath everyday, or the reason they matter to the world, or why God created them for such a time as this. Yes, we’ve gotten really deep really quickly.
After class is done, I stay for an hour or 2 after and get ready for the next day. Making sure towels are folded, foil is cut, and pencils are sharpened. Then I usually go home and work on other admin tasks and answer emails for Shear Love.
It’s a lot. But it’s worth it. Worth it doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about begin here getting to do the things I do.
Each day they learn something new and so do I. Every day I make them do their tasks a multiple times so it becomes ingrained in them. I tell them I want them to be able to do these things without even thinking about how to do them. I want the things I teach them to become second nature.
Not just the things I teach them about hair.
To be honest, hair is secondary to my purpose in being here. While I want them to excellent hair stylists with successful careers, more than anything I want them to know (in the famous words of Miss Aibileen Clark)….
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
Today, I think one of my girls finally got it.
She has been a rebel since the start. On the contract that they signed on their orientation day, it stated that they were only allowed to miss one day of school a month. She has already missed 2 ½ days this week. Clearly, my looks of disappointment are not at all convincing. I have even instilled “late fees” to encourage them to not be late. This girl pays her late fees with no consequence. Not a hint of guilt whatsoever.
Another rule is that they are not to continue in the lifestyle they were engaged in prior to coming into the program. It is impossible to be in the restoration process to healing while remaining in the thing that you are trying to heal from. The rest of the students couldn’t be happier to be free from that life. Some chose to leave, some were rescued, but either way they are eternally grateful to finally have a choice in how they earn a living.
After missing multiple days for obvious reasons, today was the day we needed to have a serious talk about her future at Shear Love. It was a conversation I was dreading. She knew it was coming. I see so much talent and potential in her. The last thing I want is for her to leave the program.
I asked her to stay after class. She sat across from me. My translator sat next to her. I asked her honestly and transparently, “Do you really want to be here?”
“Yes, teacher. I want to be here?”
“Then why don’t you show up?!”
It took her a few seconds to answer. “My body hurts sometimes and it is hard to get up in the morning. I can’t sleep at night. I have so much stress.”
I asked, “Why do you have stress?”
“Because my mom needs help with money. I need to work to take care of her.” She raised both hands in the air in a quandary. “What am I to do when my mom has debt to pay? How do I help her?”
That question has stuck in my mind for years. Since I began doing this work 5 years ago. A similar question arose from a student in Kenya. “Teacher, how do I feed my two children? My husband has died and my children cannot eat unless I go and do this. I cannot have my children starve.”
The same question came in Cambodia from a student under pressure from her mother needing to provide for her and her younger siblings. “What would you do if that was your sister or your brother? Would you let them starve?”
I have very vulnerably asked myself, “What would I do?”
If my family was on the brink of starvation, I honestly don’t know what I would do. Anyone can say they wouldn’t, but have you really ever been in a situation where you had no option? No. I can definitively answer that for you. The answer is NO!
How many times have you stood in front of your full refrigerator and said, “There’s nothing to eat!”?
How many times have you stood in front of your full closet and said, “I have nothing to wear!”?
The girls I have the privilege of educating have been faced with the question ‘What would you do?’ under very different circumstances.
I sat across from my student, my girl, my sweet little rebel, and I told her how important she was to me. I told her how much she is valued in this program. I told her that she was a powerful influence in the class and the younger girls look up to her both personally and professionally.
Her 50% of effort is easily someone else’s 100% of effort. I told her if she gave 100% of effort, she could be making more money in the beauty industry than she could ever dream of. This is my dream for her.
With tear-filled eyes, she said, “I don’t know what to say. No one has ever said I am important.”
She shared with me a little bit about Thai culture. Words of affirmations are not common in her family and she nervously giggled and said, “I feel uncomfortable,” and covered her face.
Our meeting was over and my little rebel rode away on her hot pink moto. Before leaving she promised to be to school on time on Monday and ready to work. I trust she will be.