Just yesterday, my barber shared a story about one of his three boys, the one who plays hockey. I’ve never met his boys but I have a son so I can relate. I don’t know what compelled him to tell me the story because we are not exactly what one might typically define as friends. When I say that, I intend no disrespect whatsoever. I would be happy to be friends if our paths crossed more than once every six weeks for twenty minutes or so while, quite expertly, he cuts my hair. These are just the circumstances, the details. I believe everyone we encounter is a potential friend. I’m naïve this way but I don’t care. Given these circumstances, I was surprised by his story because it turned out to be about disillusionment, about heartbreak. Like all Canadians right now, maybe he was feeling a little fragile. When someone, basically a stranger, tells a story like that, it seems to me that it’s so very important I pay attention and listen.
As I mentioned, his son (not yet a teenager) plays hockey and is old enough now to attend tournaments in different communities. Only once, explained his Dad (and not since) did he ever allow his son permission to travel without him to a hockey tournament overnight with a family he trusted. But it was a mistake. His son returned and told his Dad that the kids spent hours in the hotel room by themselves while the family he trusted to supervise his son spent the evening in the bar getting drunk, one of them passing out later in the hotel room. Like his own father, my barber explained that alcohol has never touched his lips. He would never have acted this way, “My wife and I are Muslim.” And then he said,
“It seems to me that when you are caring for someone else’s kid you should be even more careful and cautious about that child’s well-being.”
Listening carefully, I let that sink in and agreed. Who could argue with that?
After I paid my barber and left, I reflected on what he said and listened to the radio news: “increasing exploitation and radicalization of our youth targeted by extremists…in their search for identity, acceptance and purpose, socially isolated, disenchanted young men turn to extremism…the stereotype of a terrorist as a foreigner striking out from a disadvantaged country is fading…”
Writing this, I’m still thinking about my barber, his kids, my kids, our community, our country. His story is my story too. Call me hokey but I bet that goes for every parent out there. Dads and sons and daughters and Moms all over Canada (all of us, everywhere) playing hockey, or soccer, or playing music, whatever, watching out for their own children, watching out for their neighbours’kids too. It’s simple really but perhaps the most important thing.