“Try to find some kind of a spiritual crutch, so when people are not around you can rely on, you have somewhere to turn.”
March 10, 2012 – It was 7:00pm on a Friday night, the streets full of people enjoying the evening as the aroma of limitless dining choices wafted in the air—a regular occurrence in Granada Hills at a weekly event I have labeled “Catering Truck Alley.” Four blocks of bumper-to-bumper mobile kitchens, with each toting the best-of-the-best in what sidewalk dining could offer. I’d been there several times, and every time I attended I enjoyed amazing food and the compelling company of a most diverse culture. An experience where folding chair and curbside sitting was in vogue as many rubbed shoulders over aluminum foil wrapped cuisine; and for me, a socializing spot to meet a stranger or two.
I arrived with, sadly admitted, expectations of quickly finding a stranger turned friend. You see, I was hungry for street food, and in choosing my location that night I thought I’d have no problem starting up a conversation. Yet as I walked, a dry feeling engulfed me, one that after almost an hour of rejection from all I approached, swayed me away from wanting to talk to anyone, let alone enjoy eating anything at all. I was even starting to feel bitter, wondering how unfairly people must have been profiling me. I had no malice, no hidden agenda, just a promise to publish their words for the world to hear; and all the while I was wandering, nagging at me was a pull I could not get out of my head. But my pride got the best of me. A downfall that blocked me from listening to what my intuition was telling me, “Go to the barber shop you passed on that side street where you parked your car,”reasoning with myself that I had committed to meeting someone on the boulevard.
It was close to 8pm. I’d aimlessly strolled up and down the boulevard for close to an hour, been called a name or two, looked throughby many, and assuming the frustration I was feeling in trying to force a friendship, I might have been carrying a chip on my shoulder for everyone to see. So finally listening to my first inspiration, I dropped my pride and walked through the doors of the pool-tabled shop of Barber/Entrepreneur Jalon.
I admit, after the, “Stay away from me you camera freak,”bashing I had gone through, I was apprehensive to interrupt anyone in their own space—especially as he was working with a few clients, but I was committed. The night was going fast and I had a story to post by midnight.
Forcing myself to calm my attitude, I introduced myself, and with no need for great detail I was instantly welcomed. Warmly invited into the circle as Jalon worked on what seemed like a couple of long time customers. What caught me off-guard was their sincere interest to know who I was, even more than wishing to blow they’re own horns.
My first impression was proven true as both guys had been going to Jalon for years. “He is the best in The San Fernando Valley,”one said. “No,”the other exclaimed, “he is the best barber in California.”
What made Jalon so good at his craft? In the words of his clients, “Precision, like Kobe!”
Yet there was more to Jalon than precision. His shop was a sanctuary of friendship as I quickly realized I was amidst what felt like friends hanging out in a living room conversation.
Jalon set the tone, and upon his answering my first question, I realized why.
That question: “If you had the stage and the whole world was undivided in listening, what would you say?”
“This may sound cliché, but we should all follow the golden rule,”Jalon began as he worked an intricate cut on one of his clients. Better even, friend.
For all the years of my Sidewalk Ghosts project, I’ve heard many talk of the Golden Rule, yet this was the first time I had been in an environment that radiated its values.
The Golden Rule: A universal premise that has been expressed by just about every kind of person you can think of. So, in meeting Jalon I was inspired to do a deeper research on its origin:
From the scriptures of the Bahá’í Faith: “Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself. —Bahá’u’lláh
Beware lest ye harm any soul, or make any heart to sorrow; lest ye wound any man with your words, be he known to you or a stranger, be he friend or foe.” —`Abdu’l-Bahá
“Comparing oneself to others in such terms as, “Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I,” he should neither kill nor cause others to kill.—Sutta Nipata 705
One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter. —Dhammapada 10. Violence”
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” —Matthew 7:12
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself” —Leviticus 19:18
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself.” —Leviticus 19:18
“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” —Leviticus 19:34
“’That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn. —Talmud, Shabbat 31a, the ‘Great Principle’”
“The most righteous person is the one who consents for other people what he consents for himself, and who dislikes for them what he dislikes for himself.”
Jalon was a man of compassion, who evidently held strong to The Golden Rule in the way he treated his clients… oh again, I mean friends…or maybe per The Golden Rule—“Neighbors.” Neighbors that through my unannounced visit had instantly called me friend.
Jalon finished the last haircut and even though quitting time from a long day had arrived, he graciously allowed me time to take a few photos. As I did, I challenged him to think of both the present and future of the world to come.
For the present: “Try to find some kind of a spiritual crutch, so when people are not around you can rely on, you have somewhere to turn.”
For what’s ahead: “I don’t think we are heading to too much good. There is too much inflation, and the way things are going, it looks like the government will be running things. I’m not sure if I want to be there.”
Two very sobering outlooks given almost eight years ago, both of which we can choose either to bypass or do what we can to contribute to a better future.
Jalon called it a crutch. But, now in retrospect, maybe what he said can be interpreted as humble wisdom. A call to look at our near past in considering this time; even a prompt to fully examine a most eloquent council.
So wherever we work, whatever our stresses, challenges or cultures, shall we honor the advice of a most sincere entrepreneur. Ponder the age-old proverb he clearly demonstrated on a cold March night. For it was in his open hearted attitude and attention to familiar relationships, as well as a stranger like myself, that for a moment, I was pushed to reflect upon a most impactful insight for nurturing rewarding and productive human interaction: Simply, The Golden Rule.
Talk soon my friends,
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