Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Last week I had the immense pleasure of speaking with Lamont, a 36 year old Salvation Army client residing in our men’s shelter in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The energy in Lamont’s voice is contagious. Though he’s fallen on hard times, his perspective on life is more hopeful than most people’s I know, and I couldn’t help but feel inspired after meeting him over the phone just minutes earlier.
After spending some years in prison, Lamont says he wanted to live a changed life when he got out, and he knew The Salvation Army could help him do it. Before serving time, he had volunteered everyday in one of our kitchens as a way to stay off the streets, so he knew firsthand about the help we offer.
Upon his release, Lamont went to The Salvation Army with a plan. He told the local staff about his goal of going to cosmetology school full time to earn his license and eventually find a job that would allow him to support himself. They gave him a bed at the men’s shelter, and now Lamont says it’s put him in a better position to cut off his negative relationships from his past and meet new people.
He’s also focusing on school 100% as a student at the American Institute of Beauty and using his barber skills to benefit the shelter’s many other residents.
“I’d go on the streets giving people free haircuts,” Lamont says. “Then my name started circulating that I was the guy to come to when you need a haircut. I’m always playing around, cutting, blow-drying with these guys. They say, “I got a job interview tomorrow. Can you help me?” So I shave ‘em, trim ‘em, do their nose hairs, whatever. If you make people feel better on the outside, they become more employable, so I do hair.”
As much as he helped his male bunkmates, Lamont wanted to do more for the women at The Salvation Army’s family shelter. Then one day, when he saw his school getting ready to toss out some old nail polish bottles, he asked to take two back to the family shelter. The school told him they’d contact The Salvation Army directly to make sure it was ok, and Lamont never expected what happened next.
Rather than giving the two bottles, the school donated loads of new nail polish to The Salvation Army, plus items for complete manicure and pedicure sets, hair products, and makeup for the women, as well as socks, body wash, toothpaste, and many other hygienic items for the men.
“It was beautiful! It was incomparable! I’m giving praises to God. I was just a vessel he used,” Lamont gushed remembering it. “It makes me feel good. I really accomplished something. I did something. I’m still smiling about it right now!”
Lamont’s dream is to have his own salon one day that is full of his personality. It’s a plan he says he came up with more than ten years ago and is still trying to execute to this day. For him, doing hair is a job in which his clients won’t hold his past against him as long he can make them look and feel good. He loves the way a simple haircut or style can transform a person’s attitude and make them shine.
Lamont has several months of hard work ahead before he gets his license. Classes began in August and he’s on schedule to graduate in May 2011. He’s out the door every morning before 6:30am to take a 2.5 hour bus ride, and he doesn’t get back to The Salvation Army shelter until after dinner time. But his joy and determination are undeniable.
“I want to utilize my own hands, brain, and the senses God gave me to get myself out of my situation. I’m gonna share the good things that God has put in my heart. I thank God He has given me the knowledge, ability, and power to plant the seeds. That’s all I am. A sower of good seeds.”
In regards to The Salvation Army, Lamont told me, “It’s a blessing to be a part of this organization. I think that someway, somehow, with the will of God, together we can always make a difference. I would love to try to be a part of this organization for the rest of my life.”
We’d like that too. Good luck, Lamont, with school, you career, and beyond. We’re rooting for you!