Harvest Time

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The corn is well past knee-high but it isnít quite time to reap whatís been sown. Fortunately, Iím not talking about the corn. Iím actually talking about my hair. Itís under new ownership. The photo accompanying this column is no longer accurate and I may even be able to blend into a crowd once in awhile.

In fact, itís shorter now than it was on my first day at the Daily Reporter in Spencer. Itís just kept growing since then.

Iím sure many people equated me with the tuft of red atop my head. Frankly, itís probably not the only thing Iíve been equated with over the years. Long hair means youíre a drug user. Long hair means youíre a hippy. Long hair means you drive a Prius. Long hair means youíre too poor to get a haircut. Long hair means youíre too lazy to get a haircut.

Well, actually that last one is how this all got started for me. I was a college sophomore and my coursework kept me pretty busy. Haircuts werenít something I was actively trying to work into my schedule. Christmas break came and I finally took the time to get a trim. Since I didnít want to worry about it again for awhile, I decided to have it cut as short as I could stand. The hair stylist took a look at what I had and told me my hair seemed long enough for a donation to Locks of Love.

If youíre not familiar with Locks of Love, itís a company that makes natural hair wigs for children who have lost their hair during cancer treatment. What she said set my hair apart was not only its color, but its condition. I didnít use any styling products, which meant it wasnít damaged in ways many peopleís hair is. Most people know that certain products, curling irons and blow drying can damage your hair. What most people donít know is if you send damaged hair to companies like Locks of Love, or Wigs for Kids, itís probably going to be thrown out. They canít use it.

My sophomore-self had inadvertently stumbled on a simple way to serve others. My hairís unintended rarity was something someone less fortunate than I needed and it wasnít hard for me to produce or part with. Since then, Iíve donated about four times. It takes about a year-and-a-half to two years for me to get the minimum required length for donation. That can be quite a while to commit to a look that some liken to bad character or hygiene. In fact, thereís been a couple times I cut my donation plans short ó no pun intended.

At least twice, I cut my hair off before it was ripe, because I needed a job. Iím well aware people are skeptical of hiring a man with shoulder-length locks. I mean, if Five Man Electrical Band taught us anything itís that ďThe sign said ĎLong-haired freaky people need not apply.íĒ Okay, bad example. Thatís just playing into the long-haired-psychedelic-hippie stereotype. But itís got the ring of truth to it. Thereís a stubborn perception out there.

Reactions are the same every time I tell someone I donate my hair: surprise. Itís a surprise because intent is invisible. Now, itís usually a joyful surprise, like telling someone you regularly donate blood, but a surprise nonetheless. Itís a surprise because the reality wasnít quite plumb with the perception. Reality endures. Perception doesnít. Explaining why my hair sometimes drops past my collar bone somehow makes my hair more acceptable to some. Yet, the reality of my intent didnít change. Perception did. We donors have to realize, in order to do what we feel is right and good, there will be long stretches of time when weíre thought of as something we arenít.

In order to help a stranger, we may be inaccurately labeled by people we see every day.

We silently carry the labels ó druggie, hippie, alternative school student, progressive liberal, hacky sack enthusiast ó all the while knowing weíre helping a young cancer patient. And we know the labels arenít accurate. We know what we are. Weíre donors. We reap what we sow. Thatís true of everyone. Weíre in a continual cycle of giving and receiving from one another. Some of us may be receivers now and, in time, we will need to give of ourselves ó literally or figuratively ó so others can continue on and sow what will become another yearís harvest.