I never have liked haircuts. While growing up, I always dreaded the buzzing of the clippers and the close calls with my ears and the scissors. At the end of eighth grade, I finally gained the permission to grow out my hair. As I started high school, I wanted to set myself apart in my own unique way. The solution was simple – I stopped washing my hair. This isn’t as bad as it may seem. I would still rinse my scalp with water, but shampoo was shelved for a month. After a month, I had significant clumps that had gained enough resilience to handle washing with shampoo. Conditioner and the comb continue to go unused and will so as long as I have these dreads.
This lack of combing and adequate washing is known as the “neglect” method of dread lock formation. It was not glamorous, but it did set me apart. Looking back at pictures, I can understand the stares and questions. Yet, during the gradual process I never could tell that I looked any worse than the day before. Now, after three and a half years, and various clump-separations, my hair has finally become a hairstyle. But after this long journey from short to long to dreaded hair, the many strange looks, and everyone’s eventual appreciation or at least acceptance of the dreadlocks, I felt like I had accomplished my goal of setting myself apart in my own way. I had been having thoughts of chopping them just to start anew as I graduated and headed off to college, but a story my brother-in-law told me came to mind. When he was in high school, he had known another student who had grown his hair throughout his high school career. On the last day he spread the word that he would cut his hair if he would be paid a certain amount of money. He collected a couple hundred dollars and cut his hair.
I attended my next National Honor Society meeting with this in mind. We were planning on doing a raffle for a laptop or a camcorder to raise money for Compassion International’s Give a Pig for Christmas program. As we were looking at things that could be purchased through Compassion International, I remembered that Lutheran World Relief did much the same thing. A speaker had come to my church to speak about Lutheran World Relief’s gifts program and I was intrigued by the clean water system. I had been tithing my earnings for a few years to purchase a water system, but I then decided I might be able to do even better if I would use my hair as a fundraising lever. I brought this up to the other members of the National Honor Society and they all thought it could work. However, I made sure to stipulate that the money raised from the hair fundraiser would be used to purchase water systems through Lutheran World Relief. Everyone agreed to it, and we set about making posters.
A fundraiser the likes of this had never befallen the George-Little Rock Community High School. At first it was just a raffle for who would get to cut the hair, however some people voiced that they would pay to see it kept and not cut. We then changed the fundraiser to involve a vote. One ticket could be bought for two dollars or three tickets for five dollars. These tickets would then be put in the “cut” or “not to cut” buckets to be counted as votes. The real kicker was that if the cut bucket had more votes, those votes would become raffle tickets, like in the original fundraiser, for a few people to be able to cut off the dreads. Interest in the fundraiser grew, and the school, my family and I, and other members of the community got involved. At the end of it all, I was able to keep my hair with an overwhelming vote of about 1050 to keep it and 500 to cut it. More importantly, we had raised a little over $2,500. I gave a presentation, and said farewell to my high school, leaving the task of purchasing the water systems to my school’s National Honor Society. Even as the check has been sent to LWR’s headquarters and the fun of the vote is over, I know that five communities will be able to safely quench their thirst far into the future.
As an 18 year old high school senior leaving my small Northwest Iowa town of Boyden and heading to Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vermont, I hope to learn sustainable agriculture and forestry practices and bring these to places where food and shelter is in short supply. I hope I will be able to continue to receive so much support for my ideas and endeavors.