NEVER SAY “NEVER”

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I said I would never go back and it was my full intent to never darken the door of the place ever again. I actually only went one time, but the life lesson learned was immediate. It was also one that I’d likely never forget. After we moved back to Henly in 2001, I needed to find a barbershop. A friend in Round Rock recommended his barber. The barbershop was located in Hancock Center near 38th and Red River in Austin.

Subsequently, a friend in Dripping Springs questioned my judgment. “Why would you drive all the way back into Austin on a Saturday to get a haircut?” He went on to provide me the name of his barber and the barbershop’s location in Dripping Springs. I’ve always thought the only difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut was two weeks. As a rule of thumb, that is probably true anywhere but Dripping Springs. Trust me, two months was probably closer to the time line than two weeks.

My experience was closely akin to a thirty-second buzz cut. It added a whole new concept to “in and out” in no time. I was hot, but my issue was not with the barber. Were it not for the fact that: “Thou shall not kill” is one of the “big ten”, I might be serving time in the “big house” right now. There was no doubt about it. It was a set up!

I’ve always heard the expression: “Never say never” and in this case it was true. Last night I headed back to the barbershop in Dripping Springs. Only this time, it was not for a haircut. They say confession is good for the soul. Besides that, you don’t get by with much in a small place. At some point after the barbershop begin to fill with patrons, a large guy with a booming voice waived to me and said: “Hello preacher.” I returned the greeting and had the thought, “Who is that man?” I still don’t know, but I’m sure I’ll eventually work it out in my head.

Fortunately, there were only a few people there when I very embarrassingly attempted to scoot over to allow space for other people to sit and found myself toppled over in the floor. “Okay, we’re cutting you off. You’ve had enough” were the words jokingly lofted in my direction from one of the members of the band.   “Awkwardly embarrassing” is the best way I know how to describe the experience. I had only been in the place for fifteen minutes and you’d have thought I was a stumbling drunk.

So what was I doing at the Barbershop in Dripping Springs? You might check the reviews for the Barbershop Bar and figure it out for yourself. One person wrote: “Nice dive bar in downtown Dripping Springs. If you like beer, go…” I’m not sure I could describe my landing on my back as a dive. It was more closely akin to a backflip, but I guess the outcome is still the same. In addition, if inquiring minds want to know: “My toppling over had no relationship to beer”.  At that point I hadn’t even bought my bottle of Sweet Green Leaf Tea.  I was at the Barbershop Bar because I had been invited by the fiddle player in the band.

Before the evening was over, it occurred to me that I was there because it was a “God thing”. Some might call it a Divine appointment. I had a lengthy and meaningful conversation with a young man who not only recognized me, but also subsequently asked if I’d like to meet some of his friends. Initially, I didn’t even recognize him. It was awkward, but I said: “Help me with my memory”. He told me his name and it didn’t immediately register.

It has been a very long time since he and his wife have been to our church. He did say: “The book you wrote really helped me a lot.” It was then that I connected the dots in my head and clearly remembered the young man’s story and the tragedy that had befallen his family. Later in the evening he came back around and  wanted me to meet another of his friends.  In the midst of that conversation he promised he’d be at church next Sunday. I put my hand on his arm and said: “Please know that you are always welcome and there’s nothing I’d like more, but regardless of whether you come or whether you don’t, I really want an opportunity to know you better and to be your friend”.

I then remembered something that Chuck Swindoll wrote in one of his books: “The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.”

I could write several pages on the evening. The music was really good. I was very favorably impressed with the band and the camaraderie they share as a group. In addition, the atmosphere in the place wasn’t at all rowdy and more closely resembled a community social where people simply met to visit and talk. There were even Girl Scouts selling Girl Scout Cookies. The Barbershop has a relaxed family atmosphere kind of persona.

The General, my daughter and my son-in-law were also there. They, too, didn’t know what to expect, but found the evening enjoyable and relaxing. It was a very nice contrast from the level of stress we were all dealing with at the Veterinarian’s office the day before as we bid Barnabas farewell.

I also had a very interesting conversation with another patron who was seated at the same long table where we were seated. She mentioned that she’s relatively new to the area. I simply asked: “What brought you to Dripping Springs?” With a sense of honesty and openness, she shared many details that I found extremely interesting. I smiled at some point and said: “My hobby is writing a daily blog. You’ve just given me enough material for a week. Do you mind? Before she could answer, I attempted to eradicate any anxiety by assuring her I’d never breach her confidentiality. I mentioned a couple of things she had shared with me and asked permission to include them in my blog?

The lady’s life is really interesting and I sense that she’s never met a stranger. She is very personable and is quickly at home in any crowd.  Dripping Springs is a very small town where everybody knows your business anyway. Consequently, I needed to be careful. I didn’t want to breach confidentiality.

I’m giving you the Cliff notes version of the story she shared with me. The lady (name withheld) is in Dripping Springs because of domestic violence and the active threat from her ex-husband. He still lives in another state, but the physical abuse he violently brought her way didn’t subside simply because she had a divorce decree and a restraining order intended to protect her safety. The ex-husband didn’t care about the restraining order and he didn’t care about her. Consequently, additional harm came her way before she sought the sanctuary (safe place) of another locality hundreds of miles away.

Her best friend from high school lives in Dripping Springs. She opted to open both her home and her heart to a friend in need. She helped her get re-established in Dripping Springs. I found myself wanting to ask if she was in a victim’s court appointed relocation program, but thought that might be overstepping my boundaries. Regardless of how she got here, the lady has found a new life and her enthusiasm and joy reflects her living with a sense of peace and purpose.

She mentioned that she is a “T” “O”. I wasn’t familiar with the term. She explained that “P” “K” is a term everyone knows. She wanted something different. She doesn’t tell anyone that she’s a preacher’s kid. She tells them she is a Theological Offspring (“T” “O”). That has a little more pizzazz, don’t you think?

Her Godfather is also the pastor of a very picturesque church in a moderately small town in Texas. He also is the caretaker of a “drug enforcement dog” that is often times overly-zealous.” The dog takes her work and training seriously.  The dog has a shield and when she’s wearing it, she is all business. The pastor/care taker of the dog also has law enforcement credentials.  They work together as a team.

Recently, on a spring like day, a number of cars parked next to the parsonage in the church parking lot. The “drug enforcement dog” was clearly agitated by the scent surrounding one of the cars in the parking lot. The pastor/law enforcement person headed in the direction of where the dog was focused and identified himself to the occupants of the vehicle. He presented his credentials and those of the dog. He said, based on what I’m seeing, I surmise there is contraband of some kind present in your vehicle. You can do one of two things: “You can get in your car and leave immediately or you can decline and I’ll call law enforcement. The choice is yours.”

You guessed it, the occupants of the car opted to go elsewhere in great haste. What a nice example of grace. Some might argue otherwise, but sometimes folks thrive when presented a second chance.

The lady I was visiting with clearly has thrived from being in an environment where she no longer lives under the veil of constant threat of harm. Her’s is a feel-good story. I  am glad we had the opportunity to visit.

In fact, our entire evening was a feel-good evening. I, for one, really needed that.  Consequently, I may go back to The Barbershop.

All My Best!

Don

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