by Jerome Smalls from Hudson, Massachusetts
As a kid growing up in South Carolina, every Saturday my dad would take us to the barbershop. It was more than just getting a haircut — it was connecting with friends, learning new things, talking about issues of the day. There were so many people from different walks of life that came into the barbershop and told stories, shared their past, their present, and where they wanted to go in the future.
It made me a better person because I understood that there were more things that united people than things that divided them. And that feeling stayed with me throughout my life.
Bridging Past and Present
A few years ago, I went into this barbershop and watched this barber, Carlos — he was the best one in the place. He gave me my haircut and we got to know each other, we held a conversation. When you’re sitting in a barber chair and someone is cutting your hair, they are that close to you, so you’re bound to talk to them.
Since we began our friendship, he’s been cutting my hair every Sunday at my house, in what I call The Razor’s Edge Barbershop. I thought back on those early days of going in to the barbershop with my dad, learning from the men, and wanted to recreate that sense of community. So I built my own barbershop in my home: the past connecting with the present.
This is a place where I leave the daily corporate stuff, all the phone calls, behind. It’s a place where I can get a haircut, have a great conversation, have some food, share ideas. It’s my time.
I understood that there were more things that united people than things that divided them.
Building Family through Food
There are many connections that are made in the barber chair: culture, friendship, food, sports — the list is endless. Carlos and I share a love of food, and food has become a central part of our relationship.
Growing up, my family had Sunday dinner at home. It was not just about having collared greens or macaroni and cheese or whatever was on the menu, it was a time of connection. Food adds to the feeling that you’re connecting with someone. It creates a sense of family. Family means different things to different people, but families tend to eat together; our Sunday get-togethers are an opportunity for Carlos and me to bond and eat together at the same time during the haircut.
Spending time together, breaking bread, eating, connecting — that’s what’s going to really change the world.
Food adds to the feeling that you’re connecting with someone. It creates a sense of family.
Bonding in The Heart of The Home
When I have friends and family over, the kitchen is where the activity happens. It’s the heart of the home, the heart of the family. To me, the American kitchen is one of the places where people come together to connect and enjoy food, just like in this barber chair.
The relationship between Carlos and myself has become two-way learning. I’ve learned so much from him, not only about the art of barbering, but about culture, about family. It’s a bond of great culture, great food, great friends, and I hope it continues for eternity.