As many of you are aware, I decided not to shave for the duration of Pathfinders Project. I buzzed my hair and my face early in the morning the day we left for Cambodia, and didn’t alter it again until well after we’d returned to the United States. To this day, more than 14 months later, it’s only received one small trim.
What started out as a gag turned into something more meaningful than I could ever have predicted. When I say that my beard had a profound impact on the Pathfinders Project experience, many of you will think I’m just being, I don’t know, silly. Dramatic. Self-absorbed.
But it did.
And I’m not merely talking about the fact that my beard contributed to me being taken in for questioning as a suspected terrorist in Uganda. Fortunately, that scare was over almost as soon as it started, and, contrary to the fears that many people had after that incident, I was never again viewed with suspicion as a result of my beard. True, some shouted “Osama!” in the streets, but it was always with a grin on their face and they called me Moses, Abraham, and Peter far more often. Apparently, I also resembled recently-deceased Cuban leader Fidel Castro, hip hop mogul Rick Ross, and WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan.
Many people also thought I looked like Jesus. One day in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, Wendy and I turned a corner right as a young girl did the same from the opposite direction. Her eyebrows rose right off her forehead and she exclaimed, “Jesucristo viene!” I doubt she actually thought I was the second coming of Christ because she giggled when she realized what she had said, but Wendy and I thought the moment was priceless. So did the women selling fruit on the sidewalk – they didn’t stop themselves at giggling.
I had assumed that the beard would be a barrier to social interaction in the sense that people would find it unattractive. With the exception of the disapproval our Cambodian friends have expressed through comments on pictures posted to Facebook,
“when shave very handsome bong”
“oh bong where is your mouth?”
(bong is the Khmer word for older brother or sister, used as a term of endearment between friends)
the beard seems to have facilitated rather than impeded social interaction, and for reasons having nothing to do with attractiveness. Anyway, the number of people turned off by it seem to be balanced out by the number who think it’s an improvement.
I have a pet theory about why the beard would be a help rather than a hindrance in social situations. It seems people have an association between having a beard and being laid back. On the one hand, this is why the Guatemalan teachers initially doubted I’d be able to help them with reading intervention, scaffolding, and differentiation. They shared this with me at the end of our time in Guatemala, well after they’d gotten over it. And on the other hand, it seems to have resulted in people finding me more approachable.
Suffice it to say, I’ve got a lot of memories in this here beard. Nonetheless, I’ve decided to shave it off to raise money for Foundation Beyond Belief.
The fundraising gimmick is simple: I’ve set up four separate fundraising teams representing different humiliating facial hair styles (Team Chintails, Team Fu Manchu, Team Mutton Chops, and Team Halfbeard). A week from now (11/27), the team with the highest fundraising total wins, and my face loses. For every $100 raised by all pages, I’ll sport the new style for 24 hours – up to one full week. I’ll post photo evidence of my public humiliation here and on social media after the deed is done…
So, cast your vote and spread the word. It’s all in good fun and it’s for a great cause. Thanks for reading!