Do Something For Nothing
By: Joshua Coombes - Akashic Books, $18.30
Description: Through the simple act of a haircut, readers are taken on a geographical and emotional journey into the lives of humans experiencing homelessness in different cities across the world.
Verdict: From the very off I will implore you to purchase this book, as it not only make more people aware of the countless people living on the streets, let alone Joshuas movement itself, but all proceeds go to benefit charity.
A few years ago, the author found his calling. Placing his barber kit in his backpack, he hit the road. Since 2015, he has traveled across America, Europe, India and Australia, always engaging homeless people in conversations and offering them free haircuts. Most are surprised, a bit overwhelmed, but only too happy to submit to his scissors.
The men and women are often filthy, lice-ridden, and ashamed of their ragged clothing, but when he connects with them, they often tell him their stories They are eager to have their voices heard. So, he doesn’t just give them a haircut, he communicates with them, spends time with them, and often shares a cup of coffee with them.
Whenever possible, he offers help that he can provide, but mostly, he just listens to them. Most need a friend, even briefly. He treats them with respect.
Joshua, the author, never cared for school and marches to the beat of his own drummer, so he understands the pain, the needs and the quirks of the homeless people he meets. Sometimes they just want to be seen, something that Ibram X. Kendi complains about in his book, How To Be An Anti-Racist, which although it is on a different subject, his comment is relevant here. The homeless are just like everyone else, they are lonely, sometimes scared, sometimes preyed upon.
We ignore them, treat them as if they are invisible, as if they are simply shadows we can dismiss. Many, however, have fallen on hard times and never dreamed they would be on the street. Most are not there by choice, although some prefer to have no encumbrances, and some are addicts or alcoholics. Each has an individual story to explain their plight.
In truth, a reader will be hard-pressed to dismiss their stories. The author realizes that we often ignore the reasons that these people are on the street, always attributing it to their own poor choices, and by doing that, we are embracing and excusing our own rejection of them.
Some of the people on the street are beyond our help, but that does not justify our apathy. One woman described her inability to earn money during the Pandemic. Begging is not a job, but to her, it was. One man broke down completely after his wifes death and lost his job. Another got angry about his employers abuse and quit his job before getting another. One had epilepsy.
Sometimes events just piled up and there was no way out for them. Once homeless, how does one keep clean, provide a contact for an employer, even apply for work or use a bathroom without support from someone or some agency?
Many have learned to work the system, but none are living well. Are we all not just a hairs breadth away (sorry for the pun) from being in the same position? Some of those living on the street are actually unemployable, some are unable to navigate the system, some are runaways, and some are substance abusers, but there are also those that are simply victims of circumstance, of hard luck or illness, a tragedy or emotional breakdown, a fire, an eviction, a work problem, an unforgiving employer or intolerant landlord, and some may just really want to be on the street, but all deserve some recognition of their existence and are deserving of some respect.
So, if you went into this book with a hard heart, know that you will come out of it changed. These are not invisible people, they are real, living, breathing souls worthy of our concern. How we choose to support them is moot. We should support those in our society who can’t make it alone, no matter what their reason.
Joshua Coombes is a fine example of courage and compassion. He threw caution to the wind and attended to the needs of these people, sometimes filthy, sometimes resistant, sometimes really needy. He brought dry shampoo with him so they could feel and look clean. He was not afraid to get near them and to catch whatever they might be harboring.
He brought each one a bit of happiness, even if he did not change their lives, he did help to change some part of it. He brought them a day filled with unexpected pleasure.
Joshua will donate all of the profits from this book to charities that are created with the purpose of telling the world about these victims of homelessness, of giving them a voice, so they are visible and viable, hopefully to encourage programs to give these people the second chance in life they truly need, to inspire people to stop walking by them as if they are invisible, so they can come out of the shadows where they hide to seek some privacy and to escape the rejection.
He refers to them as unsheltered which is so much nicer sounding than homeless, but just as devastating for individuals, couples and families. [TWJ]
Joshua Coombes Coombes is a British hairstylist and founder of #DoSomethingForNothing ― a movement encouraging people to connect their skills and time to those who need it.
When Coombes launched the project in 2015, his intention was to positively impact peoples lives by offering free haircuts to those experiencing homelessness.
By posting transformative images on Instagram, his platform continues to grow as he amplifies the stories of many that go unheard. Coombes mission caught the attention of media outlets in Europe and has rippled worldwide.
Coverage includes appearing in National Geographics new series The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman, released on Netflix internationally.
Today, Coombes continues his efforts in new countries, humanizing this issue globally. He currently resides in London, UK.
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