If you haven’t figured it out by now, some of my favorite people to write about are the guests who frequent the day shelter for homeless men where I work. On a daily basis, I am witness to the triumph of the human spirit, sincere gratitude, and acts of kindness, both big and small, that coexist with their daily struggles to navigate the streets that they call home and the system that is supposed to help them, but sometimes hinders them. It is a world that few people ever see, but I hope that the stories I share make the people in this particular world more visible, as they so deserve to be both seen and heard. With that, I share with you the story of DeShawn.
DeShawn is a young man in our permanent supportive housing program, and he has a strength and wisdom that defy his years. He became homeless as a youth and experienced trials and tribulations that most adults could not have weathered, and he not only survived the many challenges that came his way, he learned to thrive. Despite a chronic health condition, DeShawn has an indomitable spirit, and recently, his kind spirit was on full display when he made a very generous offer to help the men who still are guests of the day shelter.
One afternoon each month, DeShawn takes a long bus ride from the school he attends to come to the day shelter to share one of his special gifts with the men. Over the years, DeShawn earned his cosmetology license, and he decided that he wanted to give back to the day shelter by offering free haircuts to any of the guests in need of one. As he sets up his tools of the trade, the men quickly begin to form a line to have him work his magic on their hair and beards. As much as they look forward to sitting in his chair for this wonderful service, truth be told, I think DeShawn looks forward to it as much, or more, than they do.
He treats each man with such kindness and respect that it truly is touching to watch. He takes time to talk with them about exactly what they want and educates them about how to take care of their hair and beards as best they can, given their current circumstances, and he works with great precision to deliver the results that they seek. As he works, DeShawn can be heard engaging the men in conversation and hanging on their every word, and when the clippers and shears stop moving, big grins spread across the faces of the men and excited words of thanks fill the room. He stays until every single man in need of his services has been assisted, and he always thanks the staff for allowing him to volunteer his services. DeShawn’s thankfulness for having the opportunity to give back is a great reminder that most people want to help and to feel needed, and his help is very much-needed by our guests indeed.
The shaves and haircuts transform each man’s physical appearance, and more importantly, they transform their very being. The look of renewed self-confidence, pride, dignity, and happiness truly is priceless, and this is all due to DeShawn’s desire to give back as a way to thank those who helped him out of homelessness and to give hope to those still mired in it. What a better world it would be, if only we all used our talents and gifts to help one another like DeShawn does.
Just one thing each day . . .