Big Little Words

It’s been over 45 years since Mom gave her first haircut in Caldwell’s Barber Shop. And though so many years have passed, she will tell you exactly who her first customer was and what he said. Mom was a nervous twenty-nine year old and had just graduated from the Lawton Barber School. Dad needed help, especially on Friday afternoons and all day Saturdays.

Mom is quick to remind anyone asking, not hair-stylist, not hair-dresser turned hair-cutter; Mom didn’t take short cuts with clipper attachments and she used a straight razor around the ears. It was in a barber shop after all, not a salon. (You go to a barber shop to get a flat-top or tapered clipper cut; you go to a salon to get highlights and over priced scissor cut. I think much more highly of the barbershop, but I am biased, I’m the son of barbers.)

I like the smell of a real barber shop. Give me some Jeris hair tonic and I’m home again.

The barber shop is the ultimate man cave (though I read recently that “man cave” is passé). My point is, it’s a man’s world inside an old fashioned barber shop. My Mom handled herself quite nicely inside the mancave, she learned to trade barbs with the guys and not to take the smart alecks too seriously. When a fella made a crack about the lady barber, she could crack right back.

But, the first day on the job, standing beside her barber chair, she couldn’t help but wonder if any of the men would take a chance on the new barber . . . the new LADY barber. “You’re next,” she would say. “Oh, that’s alright, I’ll wait.” Dad had his string of customers and they liked the way he cut their hair. You know the old saying, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

A straight razor around the ears, a clean haircut

I don’t think Mom had to wait a terribly long time. But she will tell you that it was an anxious time. “You’re next,” Mom said to one of the prominent citizens of Apache those many years ago. He paused, only for a second, and crawled into Mom’s barber chair.

Mom says that she can remember it like it was yesterday. She wrapped the barber-sheet around C.W. London’s shoulders and clipped it securely at the neck. “You’re my first customer,” she offered in all honesty.

“You’ll do just fine,” he said.

And that was that. She has given hundreds, probably thousands of haircuts over years, but the first haircut is the one she remembers best. She remembers best because of four little words — you’ll do just fine.

Four little words of affirmation, four little words that started the lady barber’s career, those four little words have mattered for a lifetime with Mom. Our words can matter, and they can matter for good or they can matter for bad.

I was talking to a friend and co-worker this past week and she was laughing about words from her teenage years.  She was trying on clothes at department store with her mother. As she was trying on clothes her mother turned to the sales attendant and said, “You probably would be surprised to know my other daughter is tall and thin.” My friend laughs today, “My momma had no idea that she had just called me short and fat.” She can reflect and laugh today, she realizes that her mother didn’t mean short and fat. But still, my friend does remember.

Proverbs 18:21   “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

The words we use even that smallest of encounters can count for a lifetime. That’s makes our tongues an awesome responsibility. Be careful. Also, be lavish with words of affirmation.

Today at the convenience store you may be the customer that follows a group of grumpy people. That person behind the counter should matter. I have to believe that our words can matter too. A thank you cost us nothing, I’m sure words of appreciation can make an eight-hour shift much better.

I saw this recently:  “Good words are worth much, and cost little.”

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” – Luke 6:45



5 thoughts on “Big Little Words”

  1. Thank you Kenny and Cdnkaro… It’s been fun to ‘mine for truth’ in the stories from Mom and Dad. They have some doozies.

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