The buzz inside of Hair By Kenny is more than the drone of deftly wielded hair clippers. As I sit in the chair having my head groomed, the barbers are holding a nearly unceasing conversation with each other. I become aware that I’m being addressed when the sounds change from the strangely lilting throaty chant of Vietnamese to those of a thickly accented English, and because I’ve been here so many times, I can tell that she’s asking me if I want hair gel without having to ask her to repeat the question. As she pumps the gel into her palm, she reverts to her native tongue, and I’m aware again, as palpably as I’m aware of the fuzzy scent of hairspray in the air, that there’s a community here that I am decidedly outside of.

I get my hair cut here because it’s cheap. I like that a ten dollar bill will cover the cost of my haircut and a good tip. I don’t get my hair cut here because it’s a place where I can find other people who are like me. I’m almost always the only white person there, and because I am so very white, I always feel rather conspicuous. I’m frequently also the only native English speaker present as well, and so it’s difficult, though not impossible, to connect on a conversational level.

Occasionally I find myself wondering if or how God might want to use me in that place, as I do in pretty much every place I haunt. Usually, though, my mind doesn’t go there when I’m at Kenny’s, because there is such a huge cultural barrier, and it’s difficult to feel much connection with them. In spite of the fact that I consider myself a person who enjoys other cultures and who believes that America would do well to take a few pages from them, it’s difficult for me to feel a real connection with the people at Kenny’s. And lately, I’ve decided that I don’t like that.

I’m not prejudiced. And I don’t agree with everyone yelling about “all those foreigners taking all of our jobs.” I read God’s word and hear Him asking us to be kind to the “alien living within your gates.” Nevertheless, I don’t want to find people interesting in the way that I might find a vietnamese dish interesting. I don’t want to look at them and watch my brain file them under the category “Vietnamese person.” I want to look at them and think “fellow child of God.” I know there’s something very naïve and narrow minded about seeing a person only in terms of their not-Americanness.

More than that, there’s something very broken about seeing a person that way.

So here’s the punchline. As I was walking out to my car, I saw two of the guys sitting on a bench outside, having a smoke and a conversation, and even though I haven’t been specifically praying about this particular issue, instead of seeing two people that I don’t fully understand, I began to see them as God sees them and as He sees me. I cared about them. I wondered: Are they happy? Are they lonely or broken? Do they know God? Do they know that His Kingdom is here?

I found myself hoping that they did, not because that’s what a good Christian should hope, but because it was genuine, because I cared, because, evidently, God’s doing something in me. And I felt a twinge of fear because I know that when God causes a person to care about something, He usually sends that person to do something about it.

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