"Wherever you go, go with all your heart."
Did somebody say heart? There are individuals in this world who create community by sheer force of will. They're like social magnets... able to make connections between people in the most unlikely of ways. They come in all sorts of packages — tall, short, big, small, male, female, red, black, yellow or white. But they all have one thing in common: a streak of unselfishness that makes them consider the needs of others long before they consider their own.
Which in this day of me-first consumer culture is not a quality that's highly appreciated... or rewarded. And yet the "generosity gene" seems so deeply hard-wired in some folk that — fortunately for the rest of us — it makes it near impossible for them to act in any other way.
They don't ask for thanks. Rarely calculate the benefits they bring to a group. And never expect perks for their selfless behaviour. It's simply not part of who they are. Giving, for this gang, is way more important than receiving.
Which makes this week's column that much more fun to write. Especially since it's subject wasn't even my idea to begin with. "Hey Beaudry," came the missive from my friend Max, The Sage On The Back Page, "I know you have your own list of usual suspects for Alta States, but you should consider doing a piece on my barber." Your barber? Really?
"I can't remember what I used to do for a haircut before she opened Blackcomb Barber at Nester's 20 years ago," he continued. "I must have gone to the city or something... Still, she's way more than just a barber. She's a true gem. A real Whistler treasure... As I'm sure you'll discover if you do the story. "
Max can be a wee bit eccentric at times, you know, and I mostly indulge him. But doing a story on his barber? "Her 50th birthday's coming up," he wrote. "Her name is Amanda and she'd make a great subject for your column. You should give her a call."
Sigh. I hate cold calls. But I also trust Max's instincts for a good story. Besides, he'd sparked my curiosity. Who was this barber gal? And why was he so high on her? So I channelled my inner reporter and telephoned Amanda Stocks.
And you know what? Ol' G.D. was right. Funny, honest, outspoken and bright, Whistler's Whistling Barber (you should hear her eagle imitation) exudes an enthusiasm for life that's hard to resist. With her zaftig figure and that growly laugh and sandpaperry scotch-and-cigarette voice of hers ("I don't smoke tobacco," she says with a wink), one could easily imagine Amanda working behind the bar of a 19th century saloon in goldrush country instead of running a string of barber shops in Sea to Sky.
"Funny you should think that," she says, a rumble of laughter punctuating her words. "Being a barber in Whistler is not all that different to being a bartender. I mean, Whistler is full of Peter Pans." She laughs again. "And I'm their Wendy... I've got no kids, no family — well, I've got nine childr... er, employees — but that's a whole other story. As for my clients, they're all my boys. And I'm their confidante, their best friend. I'm like everybody's sister." She grabs a quick breath. "And I'm always happy to give you my opinion on stuff, but only if you ask for it..."
For Amanda, it's a simple equation. "I want my place to be a refuge for my customers. I want them to feel like this is the one place they can come and just relax." That's why, she says, she follows the "Barber Bible" religiously: "No religion, no politics. And there's no charge for the extra entertainment." She stops. More laughter comes tumbling out. "But you have to pay extra if you want me to shut up."