When you are three years old with no sight, the comfort of your own home and family is impossible to beat. Being with Mom and Dad or Nana and Papa means being in a place where the sounds, smells and touch of everything is comfortable and familiar… but alas even unsighted people need to get used to the world at large, specifically their own community. Asking Matthew to get out of his comfort zone and get a haircut the first few times was quite an experience. For some sighted children the barber’s chair is a terrifying experience, much more so for most without. To get straight to the point – the hair cutting experience got better right away after Matthew met Shahin.
Shahin Urias, who owns and operates several Tucson Arizona SportClips, came from extremely humble beginnings in Iran during an era of turmoil where women had no rights and little choices. Possibly coming to America, and all she had to go through to escape the culture she grew up in, gave her a sense of understanding about what it takes to overcome circumstances to be your “best personal self.” She gained his trust and confidence and built a relationship that grew to become a very important one to Matthew. He would light up if you asked him if he wanted to go see “Miss Shahin.”
Six years later he had overcome his concerns about getting a haircut enough that he would even allow another stylist to work on him! It was a slow, steady progression fueled by Shahin’s patience and sense of humor. Matthew and Shahin were very often left alone to their own conversations. Because of Matthew’s imagination many of them were pretty abstract but Shahin always played right along, even the time he asked her to “please focus” while she was cutting. He used the new word in proper context, so with a smile, she promised that she would. I promise he knows when she smiles. She was ultimately the perfect person to befriend this child on his journey to eventually looking forward to his haircut excursions.
In the beginning Matthew needed to take an extra shirt with him. Putting a cape on to protect his clothes was out of the question in the early going. He had a shirt he showed up in and after it got hair on it, he got a new one to go home in. After slowly introducing the feel of the cape to him, he eventually let her put it on. The first picture in the series shows him at that point. We were so proud that he would wear it that we got the phone out and took a picture. From then on we continued with picture taking at benchmark points of his development along the way. One of the ingeniously instinctive moves Shahin made was to give Matthew a comb which gave him something other than what was going on to think about. He came to expect them. We now have about fifty combs that resurface at his home, and ours, in the vehicles, and in weird random places because he walked out the door each time with a new one!
Next came a huge exposure – the buzzing sound of the clippers. He was introduced in small increments with accompanying banter that was non-intimidating and finally felt the vibration and got used to that. Four or five visits later he was allowing her to use the clippers. As time went on their conversations became more involved and a larger distraction. This allowed her to (since he was sitting still longer) to do an increasingly better job of cutting his hair. He got plenty of praise, positive reinforcement and suckers at the end of the session along the way.
Next came the vibrating chair which was also the chair you sat in to get your hair shampooed. The vibrating chair was an instant hit! Matthew took right to it… he had been exposed to them in the mall on shopping trips so that was an easy transition at the barber shop. During the last several visits Shahin has been talking to him about and getting him used to the “shampoo bowl.” There is something about the sensation of leaning back that he doesn’t like so this may take some acclimation time… but as with everything else, it may take a little time but he’ll get there.
We need tell no more of the story because as the old saying goes,” a picture paints a thousand words!” Just look at these pictures, you can see the story in them. It has been our observation that God has placed people in Matthew’s life that have been just what he needed at the time to develop into his best self. At the time of this writing he has recently turned nine years old and is no longer a young, but a full blown child. It’s hard to believe all that he has learned and how much he has grown.
His Nana and Papa are headed back to Tucson later this year and hope to run Shahin down and see if she can work him in for another haircut. With her responsibilities as an owner of multiple locations she no longer cuts hair on a regular basis. In fact, she had to stop so she could take care of business details long before Matthew was done with his journey, but she still made time for him. We are so grateful for her contribution to his life. When we see her next it’ll be kinda like a family reunion. Take a minute to think about those special unselfish people in our lives that make it a better place. They truly are a blessing.